Hollywood vs. America: Popular Culture and the War Against Traditional Values


Why does our popular culture seem so consistently hostile to the values that most Americans hold dear? Why does the entertainment industry attack religion, glorify brutality, undermine the family, and deride patriotism?

In this explosive book, one of the nation's best known film critics examines how Hollywood has broken faith with its public, creating movies, television, and popular music that exacerbate every serious social problem we face, ...

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Hollywood vs. America: Popular Culture And The War on Tradition

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Why does our popular culture seem so consistently hostile to the values that most Americans hold dear? Why does the entertainment industry attack religion, glorify brutality, undermine the family, and deride patriotism?

In this explosive book, one of the nation's best known film critics examines how Hollywood has broken faith with its public, creating movies, television, and popular music that exacerbate every serious social problem we face, from teenage pregnancies to violence in the streets.

Michael Medved powerfully argues that the entertainment business follows its own dark obsessions, rather than giving the public what it wants: In fact, the audience for feature films and network television has demonstrated its profound disillusionment in recent years, with disastrous consequences for many entertainment companies. Meanwhile, overwhelming numbers of our fellow citizens complain about the wretched quality of our popular culture—describing the offerings of the mass media as the worst ever. Medved asserts that Hollywood ignores—and assaults—the values of ordinary American families, pursuing a self-destructive and alienated ideological agenda that is harmful to the nation at large and to the industry's own interests.

In hard-hitting chapters on "The Attack on Religion," "The Addiction to Violence," "Promoting Promiscuity," "The Infatuation with Foul Language," "Kids Know Best," "Motivations for Madness," and other subjects, Medved outlines the underlying themes that turn up again and again in our popular culture. He also offers conclusive evidence of the frightening real-world impact of these messages on our society and our children.

Finally, Medved shows where and how Hollywood took a disastrous wrong turn toward its current crisis, and he outlines promising efforts both in and outside the industry to restore a measure of sanity and restraint to our media of mass entertainment.

Sure to elicit strong response, whether it takes the form of cheers of support or howls of enraged dissent, Hollywood vs. America confronts head-on one of the most significant issues of our times.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In its glorification of violence and casual sex and in its disparagement of the family, Hollywood is profoundly out of touch with the values and lifestyles espoused by most Americans, charges Medved, a film critic and co-host of PBS's Sneak Previews. Movies and television, he argues, malign marriage and religion, encourage out-of-wedlock births and wallow in ugliness, gore and selfish hedonism--all with devastating social consequences. He also condemns pop music, especially rap, for its obscene lyrics, misogyny and promotion of promiscuity. Medved What Really Happened to the Class of '65 is frequently wrongheaded or heavy-handed in his criticism. Yet he is often on the mark, and one need not be a conservative or a religious fundamentalist to find much to ponder in his critique, which is chock full of examples of pop culture's gratuitous pandering to the public's worst instincts. Instead of censorship, Medved advocates boycotts and public shaming to force the entertainment conglomerates to act more responsibly. First serial to Forbes and Reader's Digest; author tour. Oct.
Library Journal
Film critic Medved, cohost of PBS's Sneak Previews , presents a scathing indictment of Hollywood that is sure to be controversial. Asserting that ``the dream factory has become the poison factory,'' he criticizes Hollywood movies for portraying religion unfavorably, glamorizing violence, and celebrating immorality. Martin Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ 1988 is among the films censured at length, and there are many others whose objectionable scenes are singled out, from Total Recall 1990 to The Prince of Tides 1992. Those who lament America's loss of what lately have been generally called ``family values'' will agree with Medved, while others are likely to dismiss his impassioned text as a windy sermon. A marginal purchase for general collections.-- Richard W. Grefrath, Univ. of Nevada Lib., Reno
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060924355
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/1993
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 1,022,571
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Medved

Michael Medved is the host of a nationally syndicated daily radio talk show, former chief film critic for the New York Post, and former cohost of PBS's Sneak Previews. He is the author of eight books, including Hollywood vs. America.

Diane Medved, PH.D., is a clinical psychologist, Internet talk-show host, and author of four other books, including the bestselling The American Family (with former vice president Dan Quayle). The Medveds live in Seattle with their three young children.

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Read an Excerpt

A Sickness in the Soul

Alienating the Audience

America's long-running romance with Hollywood is over. As a nation, we no longer believe that popular culture enriches our lives. Few of us view the show business capital as a magical source of uplifting entertainment, romantic inspiration, or even harmless fun. Instead, tens of millions of Americans now see the entertainment industry as an all-powerful enemy, an alien force that assaults our most cherished values and corrupts our children. The dream factory has become the poison factory.

The leaders of the industry refuse to acknowledge this rising tide of alienation and hostility. They dismiss anyone who dares to question the impact of the entertainment they produce as a "right-wing extremist" or a "religious fanatic." They self-righteously assert their own right to unfettered free expression while condemning as "fringe groups" all organizations that plead for some sense of restraint or responsibility. In the process, Hollywood ignores the concerns of the overwhelming majority of the American people who worry over the destructive messages so frequently featured in today's movies, television, and popular music.

Dozens of recent studies demonstrate the public's deep disenchantment. In 1989, for instance, an Associated Press/Media General poll showed that 82 percent of a scientifically selected sample felt that movies contained too much violence; 80 percent found too much profanity; and 72 percent complained of too much nudity. By a ratio of more than three to one, the respondents believed that "overall quality" of movies had been "getting worse" as opposed to "getting better."

In 1990, a Parentsmagazine poll revealed similar attitudes toward television. Seventy-one percent of those surveyed rated today's TV as "fair, poor, or terrible." Seventy-two percent of this sample supported strict prohibitions against "ridiculing or making fun of religion" on the air, while 64 percent backed restrictions on "ridiculing or making fun of traditional values, such as marriage and motherhood." A Gallup Poll in 1991 turned up additional evidence of the public's suspicious and resentful attitude toward televised entertainment. Fifty-eight percent of Americans said that they are "offended frequently or occasionally" by prime-time programming; only three percent believed that TV portrayed "very positive" values.

This widespread concern over the messages of the popular culture stems from an increasingly common conviction that mass entertainment exacerbates our most serious social problems. A Time/CNN survey in 1989 showed that 67 percent believe that violent images in movies are "mainly to blame" for the national epidemic of teenage violence; 70 percent endorse "greater restraints on the showing of sex and violence" in feature films. A Los Angeles Times survey of the same year reported 63 percent who assert that television "encourages crime," while a 1991 Newsweek/Gallup Poll showed 68 percent who hold that today's movies have a "considerable" or "very great" effect in causing real-life violence.

"This Simply Cannot Go On"

The Hollywood establishment chooses to ignore these public attitudes, or else to downplay their significance. Surveying the severe financial problems that currently plague every component of the entertainment industry, the top decision-makers see nothing more than a temporary slump in business. In one typical comment, John Neal, senior vice president for marketing for United Artists Entertainment, optimistically declared: "All it takes is one big hit movie and suddenly the whole picture changes."

That "one big hit movie," however, will do nothing to end the alienation of an increasingly significant segment of the mainstream audience. The public's growing disillusionment with the content of the popular culture represents a long-term trend that won't suddenly disappear with the end of a recession, or the release of a new batch of lucky box-office blockbusters. The depth and breadth of the current crisis suggests fundamental flaws in the sort of entertainment that Hollywood, in all of its many manifestations, seeks to sell to the American people. That is why ventures as varied as home video and rock 'n' roll radio, feature films and prime-time television, are all suffering similar and simultaneous setbacks.

Consider, for example, the baleful situation with the three major television networks. In the last fifteen years they have lost a third of their nightly audience--some 30 million viewers. As a result, their cumulative profits have sunk from $800 million in 1984 to $400 million by 1988, to less than zero in 1991. Business analysts advance many theories for this disastrous falloff, but even television insiders consider that much of the public's disenchantment relates directly to the quality of the programs. "The networks have lost audiences because they've lost touch with the American viewer," according to Gene DeWitt, head of a prestigious New York media consulting firm interviewed by Time in November 1990. "They haven't delivered programs that viewers want to watch."

Syndicated columnist Mike Royko spoke for many Americans when he recently declared, "I enjoy TV trash as much as the next slob. But the quality of truly trashy trash has declined." He went on to explain that of the top seventy-one shows in the Nielsen Ratings, "there isn't even one that I now watch regularly." His fellow columnist Cal Thomas announced his resolution at the end of 1990 to give up watching the networks altogether. "They have not only abandoned my values," he wrote, "they now have sunk to the sewer level, dispensing the foulest of smells that resemble the garbage I take to the curb twice a week."

Many of the major networks' lost viewers have fled to the new Fox Network, or to the abundance of alternatives on cable TV, but these additional options have done nothing to increase the public's approval of what it is watching. A survey commissioned by the National Association of Broadcasters found that a growing number of households with TV sets "feel increasing dissatisfaction" and that "the majority of viewers believe television is a negative influence."

Hollywood vs. America. Copyright © by Michael Medved. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Table of Contents

Pt. I The Poison Factory
1 A Sickness in the Soul 3
2 A Bias for the Bizarre 18
Pt. II The Attack on Religion
3 A Declaration of War 37
4 Comic Book Clergy 50
5 Forgetting the Faithful 70
Pt. III The Assault on the Family
6 Promoting Promiscuity 95
7 Maligning Marriage 122
8 Encouraging Illegitimacy 139
9 Kids Know Best 147
Pt. IV The Glorification of Ugliness
10 The Urge to Offend 161
11 The Infatuation with Foul Language 176
12 The Addiction to Violence 183
13 Hostility to Heroes 201
14 Bashing America 216
Pt. V An Inescapable Influence
15 Denial Behavior 239
16 A Fun-House Mirror 253
Pt. VI Below the Bottom Line
17 What Went Wrong 275
18 Motivations for Madness 286
19 "The End of the Beginning" 320
Notes on Sources 347
Index 371
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2002

    A Case Against Elitism

    According to Michael Medved, the culture of the entertainment industry changed in the 1960s, and he cites overwhelming evidence to show that 'serious' art, as a result, is not about aesthetics anymore. He smashes the myth of an industry driven by greed and makes a case against its obsession with violent and self-indulgent themes. Lots of endnotes and well indexed. Good medicine for what's ailing the entertainment business.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2001

    Maybe Medved should have become a lawyer

    While Medved went to Yale Law School at the same time the Clintons did, he never became a lawyer. It's probably a good thing that he didn't because we wouldn't have had such a well-reasoned and forceful argument that Hollywood indeed does not share the values of the vast majority of the American people. It's unfortunate for the law profession to not have such an incredible mind on the job. Hollywood vs. America outlines the whys and wherefores of Hollywood's attack on America's traditions and especially America's religious beliefs. As you go through the book it's like a story of 'Can you top this?' put on by the music and movie makers of America. The examples of such perverse and ridiculous storylines Medved cites leave no doubt as to the intentions of their creators. This book is not about political ideology; it's about what makes Hollywood tick and why they think that they have to be 'edgy' to command respect from their peers (they seemingly could care less about making money at the box office). It's the acceptance from their colleagues that they crave. This book is no cure for insomnia, but it would keep the insomniac utterly entertained while they're unable to get some shut-eye.

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