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?