Should Hollywood Discriminate?

By David Outten, Production Editor

In the March 4 edition of the Los Angeles Times, Steven Zeitchik has written an article titled “Does Hollywood discriminate against young black actors?” In the article, he admits that

some of Hollywood’s biggest stars are black – Will Smith, Denzel Washington and several others – but he’s concerned that Hollywood is not making more young blacks into stars.

Hollywood is the capital of the entertainment industry. In Hollywood there are groups opposing and supporting all kinds of discrimination.

At the top of the industry are a relative handful of people capable of green-lighting the projects to be made for wide release by the six major studios. These projects routinely account for over 95 percent of domestic box office.

What do these industry leaders really discriminate for or against?

Are they purposely seeking to keep young black actors from becoming stars? Probably not.

They’re competing against each other for box office success. There are 52 Fridays every year –some better than others for opening new movies. They want their openings to be stronger than their competitors.

The typical studio head wants to discriminate against box office flops. They will not remain a studio head if they fail to do so.

If a fantastic script has a role for a young black actor, they will find one to play the role. There are many talented young actors and actresses available of all colors. There are only 52 Fridays available every year.

The studio head needs to discriminate between projects that will wind up in the $5 cut-out bin at Wal-Mart and those that will demand a spot on store shelves for years at $19.95. You won’t find THE SOUND OF MUSIC in Wal-Mart cutout bins.

The shocking thing is that studio heads do such a poor job of discrimination. The Wal-Mart cutout bins remain full of major studio flops and B-movies. The number of classic A-movies is really shockingly few.

What Hollywood is missing is that there really is a huge audience out there that wants great, clean, wholesome entertainment. Up the road in Emeryville, Pixar gets it. Their movies don’t wind up in cutout bins. They get re-released in new editions each generation buys for $19.95.

Not every Hollywood movie can, or should, be a Pixar-like animation. Audiences do want comedies, dramas, action stories, suspense films, and more, but so much of what comes out of the major studios is hampered by foul language, gratuitous violence and worldviews that large audiences find offensive. In Hollywood’s Golden Age, the studios discriminated against vulgarity, sex and nudity by establishing a production code. This code was abandoned, to Hollywood’s financial detriment, when producers, directors and actors demanded that they be allowed to include more and more offensive material.

When discrimination in favor of decency was abandoned, Hollywood dove into an era of depravity it has yet to emerge from. Over 50 percent of the movies green-lighted since 1970 have been R-rated.

Even so, things are improving. Hollywood is now making more good movies that attract families. Because of this, not one R-rated movie made it into the top ten domestic box office successes of 2010.

The major studio heads still green-light too many movies headed for Wal-Mart’s cutout bins. They could more that don’t wind up there if they would leave out offensive content that the Motion Picture Code used to protect them from. They would also do better if they included more content that gets the huge Christian audience excited about telling their friends to see a movie.

THE BLIND SIDE and TRUE GRIT surprised Hollywood with strong box office because they had entertaining heroic characters with strong Christian values.

This is not to say making clean, wholesome movies without high entertainment value will bring financial success. Even Christian audiences want entertainment value. The sweet spot is to make great entertainment with clean content and wholesome values. This takes very careful discrimination.

Now more than ever we’re bombarded by darkness in media, movies, and TV. Movieguide® has fought back for almost 40 years, working within Hollywood to propel uplifting and positive content. We’re proud to say we’ve collaborated with some of the top industry players to influence and redeem entertainment for Jesus. Still, the most influential person in Hollywood is you. The viewer.

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