Hollywood Beginning to Remember Forgotten Traditional Values?

May 8, 2012

A blog featured on the WordPress main page last week reviews a movie with a promising title and subtitle—Young Adult: Everyone gets old. Not Everyone grows up.

Mark Steyn and other commentators have said a lot about our current culture’s harmful tendencies toward self-centeredness and prolonged adolescence.  Steyn made me aware of an interesting recent study:

Now, after a computer analysis of three decades of hit songs, Dr. DeWall and other psychologists report finding what they were looking for: a statistically significant trend toward narcissism and hostility in popular music. As they hypothesized, the words “I” and “me” appear more frequently along with anger-related words, while there’s been a corresponding decline in “we” and “us” and the expression of positive emotions.

. . .

During this period, there have also been reports of higher levels of loneliness and depression . . . . Their song-lyrics analysis shows a decline in words related to social connections and positive emotions (like “love” or “sweet”) and an increase in words related to anger and antisocial behavior (like “hate” or “kill”).

So I was thrilled to hear, in this review, that there might be a (mostly?) mainstream Hollywood movie that notices (and discourages) these trends of self-centeredness and prolonged adolescence.  Apparently the movie also hints at the possibility that unfashionable people in flyover country living an ordinary, traditional life may really be onto something.

I wonder whether traditional values are beginning to make some kind of a (small) comeback in Hollywood.  I thought Whip It was pretty much great (though not really mainstream, I suppose?), and arguably dumb throw-away movie Seventeen Again (what Zac Efron did after High School Musical), while it included plenty of standard-fare gratuitous vulgarity and taking the culture of promiscuity for granted, also had at least a little bit of really good pro-marriage, pro-life, pro-family stuff in there, I think.  Come to think of it, the surprisingly popular High School Musical series also seems like some kind of throwback to a simpler time.  Of course I also thought pro-family family movie The Incredibles was pretty great, but maybe all I’m doing is identifying a few outliers (however good they may have been individually), not any kind of larger cultural shift or trend.

Speaking of vulgarity and disgusting lowest-common-denominator popular entertainment, I’m told that Judd Apatow has made a number of movies that are as vulgar as any but that also contain some surprisingly conservative themes.

Then there are movies like Fireproof and Courageous, which according to some reviews were quite good, but not only have they not broken into the mainstream market; they’re from a studio that is literally a ministry of a single Baptist church in Georgia.  (I mean, that’s kind of amazing, but I don’t think the movies count as mainstream.)

What are your thoughts?

Have you seen any of these movies?  What did you think?  Will Young Adult be as good as Juno?  (How was Juno, by the way?  I never got around to seeing it.)  Is our age narcissistic?  Is Hollywood rediscovering the wisdom of humbler ages past?


6 Responses to “Hollywood Beginning to Remember Forgotten Traditional Values?”

  1. Null Says:

    It has been years since I last saw Juno, but it was a decent movie as I remember. I won’t give anything away in case you want to see it, but there were some good and bad messages to take away from it (I’d say more good messages than the average mainstream movie).

    It’s hard to tell about Young Adult just from the trailer. There seem to be some good messages in it (as you point out), but no one in the movie seems to take serious the fact that the main character is trying to steal a man away from his wife and child (at least not in the trailer). At about a minute into the trailer the main character’s friend just mentions that the guy is married with a kid and that she should “keep this to herself” — a more appropriate response would be along lines of “WTF is wrong with you?” and some shaming. At about 1:30 into the trailer the store associate also learns of the main character’s plan to try to steal the married man away and reacts with little more than silence (although at least the associate has the defense that she didn’t want to piss off and lose a customer). Finally, at the end the married man himself repeats the obvious fact that he’s married but does not definitively tell her off when she says he can “beat that” (being married). Yes, the message of the movie is that she’s immature, but no one else seems to recognize the moral depravity of her plot and call her out on it like a mature person should.

    As for Fireproof and Courageous, I haven’t seen them but I’ve read dissections of both from a manosphere blogger. The blogger detected some anti-male bias which may call into question the usefulness of the movies’ messages, though that may just be a case of a (male) biased observer seeing a bias (against men) he’s looking for. I can’t tell for sure since I haven’t seen the movies myself. The dissections are at http://dalrock.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/firebombed/ and http://dalrock.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/craven/ (can you tell from the titles he didn’t like them?) but they will spoil the movies for you if you plan to watch them later.

    • Thanks. Those sound like good points about Young Adult, although with the culture (and especially Hollywood) as far gone as they are currently, I’ll definitely take a movie in which selfishness is not ultimately rewarded, even if it isn’t discouraged much by the other characters along the way. (Maybe if we were still a culture in which all the characters would discourage the misbehavior along the way, our culture wouldn’t need a movie to remind us that it’s bad?) Next time I should at least watch the trailer before I comment! (I based my comments on the review.)

      Surprisingly, I have heard of Dalrock; I’ve seen just enough of his writing before to know that I don’t think he’s right about everything. I think he’s probably making some good points in the two reviews you linked to, and yet—he always seems to say things like this (from the Courageous review):

      “In the US 40% of children are now being born out of wedlock. This can only occur when the mother decides to have children without first securing a proper father for them in marriage.”

      Right, it takes two to tango (or make a baby, or make a bastard). “This” can also “only occur when” the father decides to have sex with a woman to whom he is not married. Does Dalrock agree that it’s sinful on both sides? He fails to say.

      In his Fireproof entry and in the comments, he and others seem to be annoyed that the female character holds her husband’s infidelity (through pornography) against him. Does Dalrock agree that men’s use of pornography is sinful? He fails to say, and from the way he talks around it (“I’m not advocating porn”, but…), I would almost have to say that he doesn’t.

      See also Sean’s comments.

      Again, Dalrock may well be making good points about double standards, the culture’s disproportionate squeamishness about shaming women for their bad behavior, etc. But his answer to the double standard seems to be to add a counterbalancing double standard on the other side. (The fact that there’s anything that can plausibly be described as a “manosphere” can’t be a good sign…)

      • Null Says:

        Yes, by Hollywood standards Young Adult (and Juno) give relatively good messages. I’m just disappointed that the Young Adult trailer failed to show any serious moral outrage at a woman’s attempt to break up a family…and I wonder what other bad messages might be lurking in the parts of the movie that were not included in the two minute trailer.

        I would imagine Fireproof and Courageous give even better messages overall, but it’s hard to say without having seen the movies myself. I offered Dalrock’s dissections as a counterpoint to the positive review of Courageous you linked to.

        I agree with your assessment of Dalrock — when I said his dissection “may just be a case of a (male) biased observer seeing a bias (against men) he’s looking for” I was trying to convey what you described as “his answer to the double standard seems to be to add a counterbalancing double standard on the other side”. Like the feminists who manage to find evidence of The Patriarchy even in the most mundane aspects of life, I think Dalrock is so attuned to anti-male bias that he just sees it everywhere.

        I think Dalrock does agree that men are responsible (along with women) for premarital sex and having children out of wedlock, and that men’s use of porn is sinful — but perhaps he assumes these facts as axioms and doesn’t mention them since they are so obviously true. He does come dangerously close to advocating porn, though.

  2. Snoodickle Says:

    Doesn’t good art often depict the most desirable aspects of society? Who wants to watch a movie about traditional family values, that’s just plain boring.

  3. […] may have a point.  (Hollywood has made at least one movie about prolonged adolescence; liberals have complained that Argo and other movies seemed surprisingly conservative.)  He also […]

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