What Happened to Decency in Hollywood?
By Tess Farrand, Staff Writer
Have you ever watched classic movies, whether it be a John Wayne western or a Cary Grant comedy or drama and asked, “what happened to decency in Hollywood?” Should we long to return to the Golden Age of Hollywood, where scenes never went past the passionate embrace, the violence was mostly implied, and cussing was forbidden?
Recently Movieguide® reported that so far this year, box office totals for PG movies have are up 80% more than they were at the same time in 2018. That’s great news and shows that there’s most certainly an audience for content that is savory and family-centric. However, there are still plenty of flicks being made, sometimes with budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars, that are anything but decent.
Take for instance the recent coming of age story BOOKSMART. The movie follows two teenagers close to graduating from high-school when all of sudden they realize they haven’t done any partying and have “wasted” their four years of education without any “normal” experiences. Amidst all their shenanigans, there’s also heavy languages, alcohol use and homosexual activity. It’s no surprise the movie bombed on its opening weekend.
Let’s pretend we’re in a time machine. It’s the year 1953. You and a pal head to the movie theater and purchase a ticket to see a coming of age-type story ROMAN HOLIDAY. While snacking on some popcorn, you laugh and smile as Joe (Gregory Peck) befriends Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) pretending to be a civilian. In the midst of comical moments, the heartfelt story never stoops to lewdness and vulgarity. Overall, the story shows the respect Joe has for her as a woman and doesn’t try anything sketchy.
The difference between BOOKSMART and ROMAN HOLIDAY is tact. Both movies address themes of wrestling with contentment, growing up and falling in love. However, one utilizes shock value, while the other is cleverly discreet, and achieves the goal of being a timeless work. How did things progress to this?
It’s fair to mention that at the time ROMAN HOLIDAY was released, the Hollywood Production Code was still in place, which studios chose to follow and forbad displaying lewd content (although many filmmakers tried to skate around this by using innuendo). In 2019, the Production code no longer exists, so the same type of standard isn’t in play. That’s why Movieguide® has taken on the mission of promoting decency and moral values in Hollywood production. Audiences deserve decent entertainment!
One could simply argue that “times have changed.” Since media tends to reflect the current atmosphere of culture, the unsavory and indecent Hollywood projects could be a reflection of how far we as a culture have drifted. This is partially true. We’re suffering the consequences of the decline of culture in many respects because of the loss of values in the media, but media isn’t simply supposed to be a reflection, it should cast a vision for a good, true and beautiful life.
So where does that leave us? We had a Golden Age of Hollywood with decency and wonderful entertainment, we entered a few decades where family-friendly and faith-filled movies were hardly non-existent, and now we’re in a season where very strong Biblical and Christian content is being made, but it’s battling it out at the box-office with very edgy content. Should we have a vision to return to times before they got bad?
While it’s great to reminisce on the “good ‘ole days,” I’d argue that it’s not wise to live in the mindset of returning to the “good ‘ole days.” We need to learn from the past of Hollywood, appreciate the good and the success, learn from the bad and the failures, and look toward the future of entertainment to build something better. Living with bitterness about where Hollywood is now and how we wish to return to the past doesn’t actually improve anything. There may have been periods of time in the past that had better values, better politics, or better living conditions, but no period was ever perfect. This is why we must learn from the past but look ahead to the future.
Let’s adopt a posture of grace and a resolve for change. Let’s bend our knees in prayer, humble our hearts before God, and ask how God would use us to change Hollywood with the good news.
We don’t want to simply return to the Golden Age of Hollywood, we want to create an even better Golden Age in Hollywood that honors God, both in the entertainment that’s created, but in the lives of those who create it.
Will you commit to joining Movieguide® in prayer for Hollywood today?