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March 10, 2006

Entertainment as Indoctrination

Garbage In – Garbage Out

“Entertainment” is the subtlest and most effective means of ideological indoctrination – particularly through the use of political, cultural and environmental propaganda.

The 2006 Academy Awards gala – that annual confab of Hollywood glitterati promoting silly hair and partial wardrobes – has come and gone. In its wake, there is good news and bad news.

The good news first: Despite the ignorati, er, glitterati balloting for the best films of the year, the only votes that really mattered were those Americans cast at the box office.

In Hollywood’s estimation, the “Best Picture” nominees were (in order of each movie’s box office gross) Brokeback Mountain (26th), Crash (49th), Munich (64th), Good Night, and Good Luck (89th) and Capote (100th). In other words, America’s opinion of these pictures, based on ticket sales, was far different than Hollywood’s opinion.

In all, Hollywood’s Fab Five grossed $235 million and averaged $26 million in profits. On the other hand, the top five picks according to the rest of America were Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Chronicles of Narnia (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), War of the Worlds and King Kong. These films grossed $1.41 BILLION and averaged $125 million in profits.

In fact, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, a film based on one of Christian writer C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, grossed more than all five of the Academy’s top nominees combined.

Film critic Dr. Marc T. Newman notes, “Instead of fretting over the agenda of Academy Award-nominated films…we should pay closer attention to the vote that really counts. The election that gets the attention of studios is the one that occurs at the ticket booth. Eighty percent of this year’s Best Picture nominees are rated R, but 90 percent of the top-20 grossing films were rated G, PG, or PG-13. Many of those films opened opportunities to talk about virtues, the darkness of sin, and the importance of family and sacrifice.”

Indeed, when asked about top-grossing films versus nominated films, Academy spokesperson Ms. Leslie Unger responded, “What we do and how our awards are determined has absolutely nothing to do with how a film does in terms of box office.”

Apparently, George Clooney was right on the money when he declared to his Academy colleagues, “We are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while. I think it is probably a good thing. … I’m proud to be out of touch.”

Fortunately, every once in a while, Hollywood and the rest of America concur on a film. Some major box office hits have been selected by the Academy for Best Picture. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, based on the series by C.S. Lewis’s Christian colleague, J.R.R. Tolkien, was a major hit in 2003 and swept the awards, winning all 11 of the categories for which it was nominated.

Of course, that is not to suggest that all box office hits are great movies (Titanic) or that all low grossing films are not (The Patriot). Clearly, timing and marketing are major factors in a film’s success.

Unfortunately, in a year like the one just passed, in which a major film promotes Hollywood’s favorite cause celebre, gender disorientation, a large cadre of Academy members invariably tout that film above all others. This year it was Brokeback Mountain, which, much to the shock and dismay of Hollywood’s cultural fascists, lost out to the film Crash.

So, why Brokeback Mountain? For Hollywood’s fashionable elite, promoting heterosexual promiscuity and marital infidelity is pass? – those subjects are already prevalent in theater and TV entertainment. Instead, for the past decade, the glitterati have been advocating for the normalization of gender disorientation pathology – the promotion of homosexual relationships as equivalent to those ordained by the laws of nature (not to mention every religion of the world).

Joe Solmonese, president of the so-called “Human Rights Campaign,” the nation’s largest homosexual-advocacy group, said, “I was certainly disappointed, but I would not trade that Oscar for all the positive conversations [about homosexuality] this movie spurred.” (Surely no pun intended.) Jennifer Morris, co-director of the San Francisco International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgendered Film Festival, concurred, “That’s the best thing about these films… This really was a groundbreaking year.”

On that note, here is the bad news: entertainment is the subtlest and most effective means of ideological indoctrinating. It creates a psychological opening through which political and cultural messages bypass the intellectual filters that arrest most input for critical analysis. Because the context for these messages is “entertainment,” they get a free pass into the mind’s cultural framework, where they compete, at a subconscious level, with established ethical and moral standards.

Those at greatest risk for this form of indoctrination are adults whose behavior is strongly characterized by their emotions (you know who you are), and all children and adolescents.

If emotive adults are not constantly vigilant about screening ethical and moral messages from TV, theater, music, books, magazines, infotainment programs, etc. – and deliberate about evaluating that communication – they risk having these messages not only encroach upon, but, over time, actually displace the source code for wholesome values and good sense.

Adults notwithstanding, this point cannot be emphasized strongly enough: Young people who do not have the sturdy character foundation that only time and good parenting can provide are at very high risk of political, cultural and environmental indoctrination through entertainment media. This is even more troubling given the increased saturation of young minds with imagery of unmitigated violence. The only means of avoiding such indoctrination in children and highly emotive adults is to avoid exposure to entertainment media with harmful messages.

Of course, for emotive adults and older children, the purposeful vetting of challenging entertainment messages with the deliberate objective of intellectualizing them – in effect, shuttering the emotional window into the subconscious – is a useful means of strengthening one’s filter on such messages.

At the Academy podium last Sunday, one of the glitterlings professed, “Art is not a mirror to hold up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it.” Unfortunately, far too many entertainment consumers lack the ability to filter critically what they see, hear and read. For them, no hammer is necessary. Consequently, I invoke the hard and fast principle, Garbage In – Garbage Out!

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