Before we get started, let me just offer into evidence one quick snapshot we might call “A day in the life of entertainment.”
CBS Evening News anchorman Scott Pelley had just wrapped up the presentation of his network’s reporting on Joe Biden’s panel, which on this day last week had Biden meeting with representatives of the video game industry to discuss violence in video games. Pelley’s broadcast also featured follow-up stories on Newtown and regrettably a shooting at a school in Taft, California. Pelley then teased upcoming stories, and ‘threw’ to commercials.
The very first item in the commercial break was a two-part promo for the CBS shows “CSI New York” and “Blue Bloods.” The CSI preview ‘teased’ a “cop killer” storyline… and we hear a gun shot. Next was the preview for “Blue Bloods” in which two separate handguns were fired… because, you know, it’s going to be an exciting episode. That’s one death, a total of three guns… in one 30-second preview for that evening’s CBS entertainment. Then there were some spots for dish soap and pharmaceuticals, and Pelley was back with more news.
In the same way that many assert that we can’t possibly roll back the number of guns on the street because “it’s just too late, there’s so many, it can’t be done”… so is there a similar avoidance system at work with violence as entertainment product. Here’s one view that, by the time you read this, might be something of a “Top 10” hit when it comes to these types of declamations: “I don’t see how I can take violent video games away from my kids, because they’ll just go play them at the neighbors.”
Because the neighbors don’t own a telephone and there’s no way you could have a rational dialogue with them concerning violent game content and school shootings. It’s just not possible; it can’t be done.
Since it’s one of our local industries let’s shift to the video recording of humans having sex, or what is often called “the production of adult films.” As recently as this past Saturday a story in the LA Times flatly stated, “Los Angeles is a world leader in the production of adult films.” The same article related that adult film production company Vivid Entertainment is suing LA County to overturn the law requiring adult film actors to wear condoms while they are working to protect their health.
The lead attorney for Vivid actually said this: “Let’s assume we’re filming an adult movie and it was taking place in the swashbuckler times. All of the sudden, Captain Jack slips on a condom. Obviously, that would basically destroy the movie, because it would be fake. Obviously people would know that couldn’t have happened then.” Yes, that would “destroy” a porn film with people dressed in pirate costumes.
The adult film industry, like the old dog food, makes its own comedy ‘gravy.’ But the fact that you can have well trained, state licensed lawyers making the absurd jokes yet presenting them as legal arguments demonstrates the degree to which entertainment companies of all kinds and at all levels will reach behind their backs and break an arm to justify what they seek, which is never “freedom of speech” as is being argued by the Vivid people. It’s money. We don’t have adult films and the “Saw” movies and remakes of “Texas Chainsaw” and fake ‘hip’ blood-spray mash-ups of history and violent gun-centric video games because writers and creative people need to tell those stories. We have them because middle-aged men, too tired or lazy to make worthwhile entertainments, like money.
After events such as the Newtown slayings, we will ask ourselves, “How did we get to where we have all this garbage in our lives? How did porn, violent porn, horror-porn, skull-exploding video games for kids, and so many guns get into the everyday fabric of American life?” None of it happened overnight. Back in the day we sought sexual liberation. And with any movement there’s always somebody selling souvenirs, in this case adult movies. With violent entertainment we at first enjoyed the representational freedom of movies that felt more real, less Hollywood fake; gun play and gun death were just elements of the larger film story. Then, because people like money, gun death representations became the movies themselves.
Greed possibly compels a lack of taste, regardless of how classy your pirate porn video’s costumes are. And this is where I fear we may never get the genie back into the bottle. There’s so much denial – much of it orchestrated and planned down to the minute – focused on convincing consumers that empty tripe is really artistic statement or by some contemporary standard “entertainment” that simply invoking the word “taste” makes one look stodgy and dated. But to those who make money from all these things we’re once again concerned about I will still ask, “Would a little more taste kill you? Because there’s a chance, however argumentative, that your lack of taste is killing us.”