Thursday, November 15, 2007

Things Be Different in Hollywood

A thread on the City of Heroes boards got me thinking about this, so I'm going to doctor it up a bit for your consumption. Yeeeehaw! Never throw anything away!

Anyway, I was thinking about Hollywood, and what we've learned about the world from it, such as:

* In movies and television of the last thirty years, how often have you seen a major character who is a clergyman, and also a positive character? Now ask yourself how many you've seen who are the bad guy of the piece. Usually the priest or reverend is corrupt, a pederast, a hypocrite, etc. That is, assuming he's Christian clergy. You'll rarely see a bad rabbi (not counting that David Kaye perve on To Catch a Predator), and a bad muslim holy man? Forget it; TV producers like to avoid being blown up, just like everybody else.

* Along the same lines, how often have you seen movies where corporations or big business or CEOs are the villains? Now tell me how many you've seen where those same sort of entities are actually decent and moral? Hell, John Grisham has made a CAREER out of showing us how corrupt big business is (how about a few movies about evil mom & pop stores, Johnny?). According to Hollywood, big businesses exists only to pollute, screw people over, and commit covert acts of evil. Well...unless that big business is movie making or television...

* If you go by Hollywood's depiction, no one in prison, especially on death row, actually committed a crime. They were almost ALL falsely accused and convicted. I guess crimes must go around committing themselves, or...oh, yeah, that's right, the corporations are committing them all.

*If Hollywood is correct, most homeless folks are women (with children) escaping from abusive husbands, or people who were turned out of mental hospitals (usually during the Reagan era), or colorful old coots who just don't care to play by "the man's" rules, or people victimized by (wait for it) a big corporation. Strangely, few of them are heroin addicts or crackheads or severe alcoholics. Take a walk with me through a bad area of Chicago or Vancouver sometime, and we'll take a tally of why most folks there are living on the streets. Interestingly, by the way, if you look at a lot of the sociology textbooks now, you won't see a single mention of homelessness being caused by or linked to drug and alcohol addiction. It's just not there. In fact, it'll say that almost all folks living on the streets are there because of "mental illness." Know why? It's because the clinical definition of mental illness has been broadened enough that addiction is considered part of it. So you're not going to be seeing a lot of mentions of homeless folks doing crack or drinking Sterno. They're technically all "mentally ill." Now, that doesn't mean we can't be compassionate and try to help, but let's at least start by being honest about why so many of them are there. Is the truth a bad thing?

* Here's an interesting one: think of how many movies you've seen in the last 25 years where there's a courtroom scene, and the judge is a black woman. Now, I'd be happy to see more female black judges in the real world, but the truth of the matter is there are currently only a handful of them out there. If you go by Hollywood, though, at least half the judges out there are black women. Doubt me? Keep track of movies and TV shows made from about 1980 to 2000, and see what you get.Hell, Lynne Thigpen has made it her "thing"...

That's en-ter-tain-menttttt!


NuclearToast said...

While I may be an addict, I'll never be homeless, because my addiction requires electricity and broadband, things that are in short supply on the street!

On the post topic, I also love how the military is always evil and populated by uncaring automatons that only follow orders, or otherwise try to hinder the main characters.

Troy Hickman said...

Nukester, I just wanted to stop and thank you for your continued posting on this blog. Folks seem to be reading it, but very few post, which tends to leave me a bit dejected.

And yes, the military is almost always the bad guy. Heck, even in movies where the main character is a soldier, often his superiors are the actual villains of the piece.

Chas said...

The military-as-villain message could be done much better.

As a veteran, though, I do see some value in the theme of "heroic soldier vs villainous command." It reinforce the message that individual integrity is valued- particularly in the face of social pressures and leadership.

They don't have to be "evil" leaders- as is often the case in the movies. The message that's lost is that good people can find themselves blinded to the negative consequences of a decision. It may be isulation of the bureaucracy. It may be good intentioned. It may be our own native prejudices or the stress of a tough situation. It may just be "pushing the envelope" without realizing that the envelope broke in places they're not looking.

Right now, the bad guys are almost always intentionally bad. They're "not like us." "Our leader is a good man. We can trust him." Show the evil in the system. Show what happens when weakness of character- not intentional malevolence- affects command decisions.

NuclearToast said...

(Hmmm, he thanks me for posting. He knows how important comments are to a blogger. You'd think he could return the favor once in a while...)

Chas said...

On a related note, recent studies say that military veterans make a disproportionate number of homeless in America.

It's easy to equate this to "shell shock" mental illness and substance abuse (and that probably does factor in to much of this) but I'm wondering if something else isn't in play too.

For the better part of four years of my life, I slept under the stars on clear nights, under a poncho when it rained, and wedged against whatever heat source was available when it turned cold. I couldn't turn up a thermostat to stay warm or always find a place to change into something dry.

... and in some weird way, those days, miserable as they were, have a sense of nostalgia to them.

Last week, I had lunch with a fellow vet that's going through a rough patch of life. He was planning to get away for a few days: pack his ruck, head off to nowhere and just disconnect from the world. He makes plenty enough to stay at a hotel- he could even have stayed at one of the many "campgrounds" or local hiking trails that provide "the basics" for the weekend getaway, but we both knew those weren't an option.

He needed to *go back* in some small way for some small chunk of time. Drive out, drop the car off someplace safe, grab just enough gear to sustain himself, and just go...

...somewhere. Nowhere.

He came back to work today. Some never do.

Troy Hickman said...

Very interesting.

Lea and I talked about this the other night, and I pondered what percentage of homeless vets are Vietnam era. They would have not only the stigma of an "unpopular" war, but also be coming out of a time when drugs were pretty common place.

Chas said...


...47% of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam Era. More than 67% served our country for at least three years and 33% were stationed in a war zone.

...45% suffer from mental illness, and half have substance abuse problems.

...VA estimates that nearly 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. And nearly 400,000 experience homelessness over the course of a year.

Troy Hickman said...

It's that last statistic that always gives me pause when I read these things. I think when most of us think of homelessness, we think of folks living on the streets relatively "permantently." But a lot of times when they figure that statistics, they include folks who are temporarily homeless, and I have to ask what the criteria is. I mean, if I'm "between apartments" for a day, do I qualify? If I'm moving from NY to California over the course of a week, with no real residence in either, am I homeless? It's like when they talk about unemployment statistics. Lots of folks are unemployed for one or two days. Do they affect the stats? I'd like to see exactly what it entails.

NuclearToast said...

I think part of the vet homeless problem is the unique experience of being in war. In battle, you have your weapons and you have the power of gods. Once you get back to "the world," everything is different and no one understands what you've experienced and nothing adds up to the adrenalin- and fear-pumped environment you were in. There's also the realization that you'll never be as powerful and get that "battle buzz" again.