The entertainment and art of a culture is the steering wheel of a society. Whatever values an artform holds can gradually shape the values of that culture. This has been the case going all the way back to Ancient Greek theatre in celebrations for Dionysus, the god of wine and festivity, and the Elizabethan era with William Shakespeare. Fast-forward to the modern day, our entertainment is a stark mirror to the American society’s values and themes. With that being said, there are certain themes within our movies, TV shows and plays that should raise eyebrows. The American society has become numb to morally degrading content in our entertainment.
The United States is already a cold-shouldered culture, tending to focus on the individual rather than our collective communities. The mixture of young adult shows telling stories with main character syndrome, while making it commonplace, is unnerving. Characters such as Ben Gross from “Never Have I Ever”, Cassie Howard from “Euphoria” or Cherry Blossom from “Riverdale” all are supporting characters in recent popular shows struggling with their dynamics with the main characters. Yes, stories need characters with dynamic, clashing characteristics for good storytelling. Yes, no one is perfect and our entertainment has emulated that. However, I’m not certain that many shows do a good job showing the consequences of main characters and supporting characters clashing in order to reflect messages of civil existence in the world.
A sensitive topic in America is concerning gun violence. With the rise of school shootings and firearm casualties within the U.S., it would be expected that our entertainment would be more sensitive in the repercussions of gun violence. Looking at films depicting gun violence, we can easily see differently. Over fall break I was able to watch “Nobody” directed by Ilya Naishuller, about a home invasion that strikes a long simmering rage from a boring, suburban dad. Toward the end of the movie there’s a mass killing of Russian mafia members, which seems typical until I saw one of the members go down in a second and thought “What is that character’s story?” Although these stories are made up, we often forget that the actions and events are vivid in the real world and affect the trajectory of individuals, families and friends every day. According to CNN Health, a study from 2013 showed that 94% of movies from 1985 depicted a violent scene, half of those scenes depicting gun violence. PG-13 films have had depictions of gun violence triple since 1985. Don’t get me wrong, I love an action film just as much as the next. Why, though, are we crying out about the damage of gun violence but then condone every movie and film that deals with mass shooting? Where are we willing to draw the line as a society of telling the stories that need to be told without becoming numb to the effects of the actions taken?
Finally, the American entertainment industry has taken the term “sex sells” and has flown with it. The rise of explicit content has begun to overwhelm our entertainment. According to Oxford Research encyclopedias, a study in 2012 of 855 motion pictures showed there was at least one 5-minute segment of explicit sexual content in 85% of films from 1950 to 2006. Another research from 2011 showed 28% of those films had sexual content of adults while 80% of those films contained sexual content of teens. These figures are just about movies; including the explicit content from video games, music and television would make a much longer article. Our stories being told today are often supporting the idea humans are more for self-pleasure rather than being known for only their dynamic personalities. We’re wanting women to be liberated from the ‘male gaze’ but are still ignoring that is exactly is what is still circulating in our entertainment when we allow an exposed scene in “Oppenheimer.” Why are we allowing these double standards in our entertainment when we could be supporting better?
At the end of the day, these are all stories needing to be told. Self-indulgence, sexual activity and violence is all a part of the world God created and humans tainted through sin. This gives room to show redemption through Christ. We as people need to question when these themes are told with audacious choices that don’t protect our mental, psychological and emotional wellbeing. We don’t need to starve ourselves by watching Pureflix, but let’s support stories and entertainment that show the world’s honesty with more suggestive creativity and sensitivity.