Thursday, December 25, 2003
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Clayton News Daily
On a recent airing of his radio program "The Factor," Bill O'Reilly spent much time on the subject of the new "Cat in the Hat" movie out this holiday season in theaters.
The show caught my attention because my favorite film critic, Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman, was a guest on the program, (Having read his movie reviews since the eighth grade, he is pretty much the sole reason I subscribe to the magazine).
So O'Reilly's stance on "Cat" was that the gross-out humor apparently on display was "coarsening our kids" and that Hollywood and people like Mike Myers should ?fess up to the damage being done. O'Reilly questioned why talk show hosts "kissed his butt" instead of grilling him with hardball questions. Before O'Reilly could rile up his listeners too much, Gleiberman subdued him by saying that the point of those shows was to pamper and promote their guests and that having such guests on helps the show's ratings. One hand washes the other, you see.
O'Reilly further charged that the public was incapable of making informed decisions when going to the movies and that Hollywood needs to be responsible for making moral judgments on what we sell to movie-going families. To me this sounds like O'Reilly is leaning awfully close to a Democratic ideology. What happened to the great Republican notion of individual responsibility and less emphasis on the providing government? Apparently O'Reilly does not put a lot of stock in the intellectual level of an audience which admires him so much. Maybe that's why he thinks he needs to "look out for you" since the audience members apparently can't make informed decisions on their own. Now to be fair I agree with O'Reilly that bathroom humor and sexual innuendo don't need to be in a movie aimed at children and family audiences, but unlike him I think the public can certainly take control of their entertainment options.
Moviemaking is just like any other business if no one buys what you are selling, you don't make money. Therefore I again stress educating the public at a young age on the arts and especially in visual communication. To be an informed consumer just like Clark Howard would want them to be. I've said in previous columns that if children and adults had better knowledge about the arts they would demand sophistication. Moviegoers are the customers just like in any other business relationship; if they are unhappy it hurts the business.
If we simply put Mike Myers or entertainment execs in their place for putting foul humor in PG movies the problem won't go away. Someone else will come along and produce the same type of entertainment so long as they think they can make a few bucks. To eradicate bad entertainment we must eradicate the need for it altogether by improving the public's taste. Movies like "Cat in the Hat" only reflect the short attention span of children and a society lacking in knowledge on the history and importance of visual communication. Films geared toward kids are ultra-flashy and hyperactive; the camera never rests to tell a story. This is what happens to children raised with an idiot box in front of them all day. Its quick shows and flashy commercials reek of a pop culture racing to destroy and constantly reinvent itself. If we give children something else to be entertained with and show them the value of good storytelling and the notions of suspense and anticipation then maybe movie studios would wise up and provide these important elements once again in family entertainment.
Zach Porter is a photographer for the News Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.