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Morality Bites -Is Hollywood a health risk?

June 29, 2011

Greetings!

Earlier this month, Ronan and Julian (from Filmplicity and DirtyWithClass, respectively) presented a debate issue asking movie bloggers if filmmakers have a moral responsibility.

Is Hollywood a health risk? So many films include scenes, ideas, and events that, at most, are slightly necessary to the story but that, arguably do nothing more than degrade society and the laws established within it. A very interesting question to debate. This hot topic issue is being debated by several of us over at Filmplicity today (June 29th).

Here is my take on this hot-button issue, add your comments:

Morality in Movies: Who’s Responsible for What?

There is no denying the fact that movies have a message! Whether that message is as simple as “You are not alone.” or as complex as “the effects of the thermodynamics and its relationship to global warming.” Sometimes the message is deliberate and intended, other times it is not.

But in regards to that message, the question here is “Does the filmmaker have a moral responsibility?” The answer, simply put, is “YES.”

*Side note: They share that responsibility with makers of all other media as well.

What are we referring to when it comes to a moral responsibility? In a nutshell, having a moral responsibility refers to the obligation of the movie maker to the varied peoples of society to respectfully portray issues in a way that, hopefully, neither threatens our way of life, nor encourages horrific acts to occur off screen.

The moral responsibility of filmmakers is one that is understood and is automatically accepted once the hat of “producer,” “director,” “writer,” “actor,” “editor,” etc is placed on one’s head. Having the right balance in anything is important, and movies need to contain the right amount of balance between artistic expression, story, emotion, and shocking scenes/events in making their point in their films.

It is, however, a very slippery slope and a hard line to establish when it comes to what should and shouldn’t be promoted/included in films. Filmmakers continue to push the envelope as time goes on in order to satisfy the ever-wanting eye of the moviegoers. From more explosions, more guns, and more daring heists, to more murders, more nudity, more profanity, and more degradation.

Several movies being made force the audience members to cheer on ethical evils as it were. For example:

In films like The Town or Inception we cheer on a group of robbers and find ourselves happy about their success in committing a crime!

In films like American Pie and Wedding Crashers the promoted ideology is that sleeping around with people is perfectly okay, healthy, and normal.

In films like No Country For Old Men, The Strangers, Saw, and Silence of the Lambs we see little to no consequence for serial killers and violence.

In films like Superbad and The Hangover, comedy tends to either make the issue of teenage drinking a more tolerable pill to swallow, OR promote the idea that even if situations get out of hand, drinking in excess won’t effect you in the long run.

Does it make for entertainment? Well, yes. People pay good money to watch a lot of these films. They enjoy them as a way to laugh/criticize/realize the state of humanity without experiencing it themselves. Do people go out and commit crimes after watching such movies? Very few that we know of. But the possible moral effects and ramifications of such things should be considered. Filmmakers that push the boundaries by showing a brutal rape scene as opposed to implying it for the story’s sake, or filmmakers that refuse to include consequences for evil actions, should take a step back and analyze what they are truly trying to say/promote through their chosen canvas of art expression.

Ultimately, I am all for freedom of speech and what-not, but filmmakers have a moral and ethical responsibility in the messages (either implied or inferred) that stream from the screen of their movie to the eyes and minds of viewers everywhere. And viewers must do their research and heed ratings and parental advisories on films, and also remember that movies are “for entertainment purposes only!” Much like staged reality tv shows. (MTV has a moral responsibility and obligation to ban these shows from the air!!) 😀

In the end, it’s a two-way street. I, for one, remember cringing seeing parents taking their young children to watch Watchmen and Resident Evil: Afterlife in theaters! (Parenting is a WHOLE other issue that won’t be discussed here!) haha. In public speaking, it is taught to always remember who your audience is, what your message is, and what not to say. Filmmakers moral responsibility starts there instead of letting the MPAA choose their audience for them. However, filmWATCHERS have a big moral responsibility to themselves as well.

Let’s hear from you! What are your thoughts on this highly debated hot button issue? Do Filmmakers have a moral responsibility? Yes or No? and why? Read more of what others had to say at the Morality Bites Blogothon by clicking the picture below!

Thanks for reading! Happy Watching!

TheScarletSp1der

Thank you to Ronan and Julian from Filmplicity and DirtyWithClass for the invite to participate in The Morality Bites Blogothon event!

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2011 12:49 pm

    Well-put, T! I’m in your camp in this matter as I keep nodding my head as I’m reading this. I’m still working on my piece but hopefully I’ll have it done later tonight.

    Like

    • June 29, 2011 2:19 pm

      Thanks Ruth! thanks for taking the time to read it.

      I look forward to reading yours.

      Like

    • July 3, 2011 8:07 am

      Sorry for the late response T, it’s been a bit hectic recently, hosting blogothons is fun but a tiny bit streesful 🙂 Obviously I agree with your stance on this but on a personal note if I was a filmmaker I’d like to think that my talent and my conscience could come to some kind of an agreement, without having to compromise my principles, and that my artistic integrity wouldn’t suffer for the sake of a few explicit scenes. i guess the truth is that some people would see their artistic integrity as their guiding principle and use that to justify doing whatever they think their art requires. A good example of this would be the work of Lars Von Trier who seems to have gone down the route of the later Salvidor Dali work, which seemed to make an art of shocking people. For me, art is supposed to aspire to truth and beauty and I don’t see anything truthful or beautiful in the work of Von Trier or similar “artists”. The problem with this is that most people would agree that we generally have different ideas about what constitutes truth and beauty. I’ve seen Irreversible and A clockwork Orange and I could justify the content of the Kubrick film a little more but I couldn’t watch either now without feeling exemely uncomfortable. Maybe that’s the filmmaker’s intent, to make us feel uncomfortable, to take us out of our comfort zone, to challenge us and our assumptions so that we can grow. Having said this though there are films like Life is Beautiful, which deals with the most inhuman and horrific of circumstances (the holocaust) and finds in it what is most human and beautiful of realities (the love of a father for his wife and son. Films like this realise that a story or someone’s experience of something is often shocking enough to make us feel uncomfortable, without having to rely on shocking images to get a reaction. When filmmakers do this to the extreme it’s like they don’t have much faith their subject and so feel the need to compensate for it somehow which is a shame. Or maybe they just get a thrill out shocking people. Thanks for the thoughts T.

      Like

      • July 5, 2011 11:53 am

        Thank you for the comment and even more so, the opportunity to be a part of this event! I wish more filmmakers looked at things the way you described. So many things are added into a lot of different films that bear no relevance to the story being told and lowers the quality of the film in my opinion.

        Once again, thanks so much for hosting this event! I’m sure it was a lot of work with a lot of fun responses.

        Like

  2. June 29, 2011 3:13 pm

    What a lovely article! I love that you included some examples as it makes it easier to follow your idea. You made an article on a heavy issue enjoyable and easy to read.
    I too am all for freedom of speech, but just as you do I think filmmakers have a moral and ethical responsibility in the messages their films convey.
    By the way, Scott at FrontRoomCinema did a good piece on the parenting issue http://www.frontroomcinema.com/film-viewing-parent/

    Like

    • June 29, 2011 11:06 pm

      Thank you very much for visiting and taking the time to not only read the article, but also to comment! I appreciate it and the feedback!

      And I will be sure to check out Custard’s article. Thanks for the link!! and welcome to TheScarletSp1der’s Web! 🙂

      Like

  3. Matthew Bassett permalink
    June 30, 2011 12:13 am

    Good read T! You hit the nail on the head.

    Like

    • June 30, 2011 7:16 am

      Thanks Matt! I appreciate that!

      Like

  4. July 7, 2011 10:27 am

    I agree with Irina, It was a great that you added examples and they really highlighted your point .. which i totally agree with! great opinion piece….and i cant believe that parents would bring their kids to see watchman?! really?!! even *I* was looking at the floor in some parts of that movie…totally inappropriate for kids.

    Like

    • July 8, 2011 12:17 am

      Bluej, my friend! thanks for reading and commenting! I appreciate your compliment on my writing as well.

      Yes, I was not a fan of the parenting choices of some of the movie goers. inappropriate for kids no doubt!

      Like

Trackbacks

  1. Do filmmakers have a moral responsibility? | DWC
  2. Filmplicity » Blog Archive » “MORALITY BITES”: HOLLYWOOD… A HEALTH RISK?

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