Who is Hollywood’s audience?

Responding to Yitzchok Adlerstein’s post about a movie that’s much in the news, Eliezer Barzilai wrote:

“there are movies in which a spouse comes back as a child (Birth), or as a person of the same gender as the surviving spouse (Ghost) in which physical intimacy with the reincarnated spirit is presented as a thing of beauty. The Greeks also liked the idea, as we find Zeus taking the form of a swan or a bull, and having his way with various maidens. These stories, I believe, implant the idea that one loves the essence of the person, and the physical form is irrelevant. But then you step back and realize, with a feeling of nausea, that they are advocating pedophilia and bestiality.”

…and homosexuality

The beloved spouse coming back as a person of the same sex as the bereaved is obviously Hollywood’s way of pushing the idea that it doesn’t matter, or shouldn’t matter, what sex your spouse is. Everyone — not just gays — should choose mates without regard to the sex of the partner. We should all be people, not men or women. That’s part of the feminist agenda, too. Which may go some way to explaining why Hollywood is making so many movies that prima facie would only appeal to the 1% of the population that is gay — not much of a demographic there. But feminists — now you’re talking about a lot of people.

There’s another even bigger demographic than women-who-want-to-be-people and that is, people who want to commit adultery or to have multiple affairs with no marriage. In “Brokeback Mountain” when the characters realize that their marriage vows are keeping them from true sexual fulfillment, they discard those vows — and are considered noble heroes for doing so (I’m indebted to Michael Medved for this insight). The message isn’t so much “Be true to yourself” or “Follow your dream” as it is “Be true to your loins” and “Follow your lust” — and that’s a message a whole LOT of people want to hear.

How else could Hollywood have imagined a movie like Brokeback Mountain would have broad appeal? “Watch two men make love” isn’t much of a draw but “Walk away from your marriage if someone sexier comes along” is a message that is really really popular especially in the Blue States which BTW if there were any sense in the world would be called “Red” and Republican states would be called “blue.”

There are many homosexuals who heroically fight their natural inclinations in order to remain true to the Torah. That is true heroism and nobility, not leaving your wife and children to satisfy your own selfish desires.

By making the homosexual life seem so seductive, alluring and glamorous, Hollywood is making it exponentially more difficult than it ever was before for people with homosexual tendencies to remain chaste. Having led so many people to sin who would not have sinned in the past, Hollywood has a lot to answer for. The Jews of Hollywood, in particular, who seem the most bent on pushing immorality of every kind, will face a Judgment Day that I would not want to see.

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22 comments to Who is Hollywood’s audience?

  • Moshico

    I saw the film and I would see it again. I am married with children, modern orthodox and have SSA (same sex attraction) I was not born this way no “gay” person is.
    Ennis and Jack discovered there homosexual feelings in the 1960’s the world was different then, one thought you were born that way.
    Now in 2006 we know different, that there are a host of reasons for one to have homosexual feelings for more information go to http://www.jonahweb.org JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality.

  • Jewish Observer

    “The Jews of Hollywood, in particular, who seem the most bent on pushing immorality of every kind, will face a Judgment Day that I would not want to see.”

    Ouch! I find it in poor taste (and contrary to the spirit of ahavas yisroel) to speculate about others’ day of judgment. How do we know that it is not we who will be held responsible for our negligience in:

    1. not having a more loving and open attitide toward our bretheren
    2. not doing a better job about our own morals and ethics
    3. not doing a better job at our davening and learning
    4. not being concerned about our own shortcomings
    3. not ….who knows?? (because literally, what mortal can possibly think he knows the cheshbon of the almighty)

    I am sure there are plenty of opportunities for those outside our circle to fill in the blanks on below:

    “The (frum) Jews of ______, in particular, who ________, will face a Judgment Day that I would not want to see.”

    I think it was R’ Yisroel Salanter who chided yeshiva bochrim saying that religious deficiencies in Lita could be causing chillul shabbos in Berlin, or something like that.

  • Toby Katz

    To Jewish Observer:
    Your comment about not judging other people and concentrating instead on our own failings is well-taken and is what the Torah, indeed, does prescribe when it comes to judging individuals who are sinning or who seem to be sinning. Not always do we know the whole story, and therefore we are taught (Pirkei Avos) “Hevei dan es kol ha’adam lechaf zechus” — judge everyone favorably. We are also taught “Al tadin es chavercha ad shetagia limkomo.’ — “Don’t judge your fellow until you reach his place.”

    However, none of the above applies when you are talking about an entire GROUP of OPEN sinners who not only sin, but willfully lead and encourage others to sin, and preach an anti-Torah ideology of “The Torah is wrong, the Torah is cruel, the Torah is not what G-d wants” and so on. We know from the Torah that G-d does judge both individuals and nations, and we have a responsibility — as Jews who have benefited enormously from the goodness and generosity and decency of this amazing country — to bring down G-d’s blessings on this country that has given us shelter.

    When Jews, as a group, refuse to criticize wrong-doing and take an ostrich approach (“It’s not for me to judge others, let me worry about myself”) which results in grave harm to the nation, a) we are creating a terrible chillul Hashem, since gentiles see the immoral Jews and do not see the moral ones protesting and b) we are causing, or aiding and abetting, damage and injury to the people of this country, our fellow citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike.

  • Toby Katz

    In answer to Moshico, I would ask you why you did not tell your wife about your true feelings? Or did you tell her, and she accepted you as you were? As for your comment that people do not “choose” their orientation, you are correct, and I do sympathize with you. I will quote myself here, and repost part of a comment I made to R’ Adlerstein’s “Brokeback” post of a few days ago:

    “Troubled” wrote:

    “Do you really think Hashem made him this way and then asks him to control his urges? This is ridiculous. If the Torah says it is “Toayvah” this means that it is NOT natural, Hashem did not make him this way. Please refer to Igros Moshe to see how R’ Moshe Feinstein’s reply to a letter from a “gay” person. R’ Moshe says this is nothing more than a “Tayveh” to be “ra”, or bad.”

    I replied to him:

    I haven’t seen what Igros Moshe says but I’m sure it’s not as simple as the way you put it. Yes, it’s true that when a person gives in to a desire to do something that the Torah forbids, he is by definition doing something “ra” or “bad.”

    That does NOT mean that the person really never had that desire or that people consciously CHOOSE to be gay because they are “bad” people! While some people have both homosexual and heterosexual urges and could CHOOSE to suppress their homosexual desires, for most gays that seems not to be the case.

    How could Hashem create a desire and then command people not to act on it? That IS something of a puzzle, much discussed by Jewish commentators. But after all the Torah is FULL of commandments to avoid what we have a NATURAL desire to do.

    For instance, it is NATURAL for teenagers to want to diss their parents—the drive for independence that is part of growing up. Yet it’s forbidden by the Torah. It is NATURAL to covet other men’s wives and possessions. Etc etc. The Torah has a word for natural desires that are suppressed and sublimated by those who wish to be close to G-d, and that word is “KEDUSHA—holiness.”

  • Jewish Observer

    “When Jews, as a group, refuse to criticize wrong-doing and take an ostrich approach (“It’s not for me to judge others, let me worry about myself”) which results in grave harm to the nation, a) we are creating a terrible chillul Hashem”

    I am not talking about the fact that you are protesting. I am talking about the level of harshness and the vigor with which you protest. If your end-game objective is truly to effect change, I don’t think your level of rhetoric will get you there. While you are advocating a “hawkish” tone, I am advocating a “dovish” tone, not an “ostrichish” tone. (by the way, since when did bird name calling become OK within the parameters of polite conversation?)

    Do you believe the hollywood jews are any better equipped to know the “right” hashkafos than are the innocent campus kids whom we are benevolently being mekarev? gien their bacjgrounds and upbringing are you so sure this emanates from a place of evol rather than ignorance? why all the anger? you can call something out as wrong without referring to the level of gehinom they will have. (an ostrich true to his species would never do that)

    If you have a more correct message of what Judaism is, then by all means show it, teach it, demostrate it, live it. BUt you gain nothing toward your own goal by leaving rachmanus out of the recipe.

  • Toby Katz

    If it seems to you that I “left rachmanus out of the recipe” you did not read my post, but your own preconceived notion of what I believe. I have rachmanus on innocent people trying their best to do the right thing, and I have rachmanus on the victims of Hollywood’s crimes — not on the perps who know very well what they are doing. You don’t have to be a Torah scholar to see the evil in Hollywood’s offerings.

  • Jewish Observer

    “You don’t have to be a Torah scholar to see the evil in Hollywood’s offerings”

    Yes! But adding a dollop of Torah’dik attitude to the mix might help soften wording! … good one, eh?

  • Daniel

    In “Ghost,” the spouse who returns as a ghost (Patrick Swayze) is male, and the bereaved (Demi Moore) is female. The movie does not advocate homosexuality.

  • Eliezer Barzilai

    I don’t mind finding myself a fellow with people who have different beliefs when it comes to school vouchers, or religious rights, or open housing. But it really might be a good idea to temper your line about the Jews of Hollywood when “during Farrakhan’s speech Sunday, he said “the Hollywood Jews” are responsible for promoting homosexuality and other “filth of Hollywood.” (Chicago Tribune). I’m sure that if the post stays up, it’s going to be in the newspaper tomorrow, and will lend comfort to people who wish us harm.
    And Daniel is not paying attention. The ghost occupies Whoopie Goldberg, an unabashed female, during the offending scene.
    Boruch Hashem for the anonymity of the internet.

  • Ori Pomerantz

    Toby Katz: we have a responsibility—as Jews who have benefited enormously from the goodness and generosity and decency of this amazing country—to bring down G-d’s blessings on this country that has given us shelter.

    True. However, saying that Hollywood is wrong and evil is unlikely to change anything. Anything you say will either be ignored, or have all the effect of expounding religious doctrine to the temple singers (= preaching to the choir). The only effective way to fight something like Hollywood is to compete in the market for entertainment.

    Making a movie is not as expensive as it used to be, and the big studios don’t have a lock on distribution through DVD sales and the Internet. There is probably a fairly big market in the US for good movies with heroes that are positive role models (not thinly veiled preaching, but real entertainment).

    Do you know of any studios who work on that? I know a few that do it from a Christian perspective, especially for children ( http://www.bigidea.com , http://www.jellyfishland.com ), but none that are Jewish.

  • Toby Katz

    “However, saying that Hollywood is wrong and evil is unlikely to change anything”

    It will change people’s perception of what the Torah does and does not approve. Jewish organizations should be making at least as big a fuss about the foul language, violence, and sexual depravity on display(including casual acceptance of adultery and glorification of philandering, as exemplified in Brokeback) as they did about Gibson’s movie — which probably /was/ anti-Semitic (and was also violent and sadistic to a pornographic degree). I’ve seen many cogent critiques of Spielberg’s “Munich.” When will we have the courage to critique sexual immorality, perversity and obscenity in the same way? Why are certain Hollywood values such so sacrosanct that we are cowed into silence, and must feign approval of what the Torah abhors, and what most people find utterly distasteful?

    I don’t agree that Jews should make movies (although I loved “Ushpizin”). I think we should stay away in droves from the movies that do not match our values — as Christians do — and we will find that Hollywood listens. “Brokeback” did not win the Oscar for Best Picture in the end, because it was so unpopular and did so poorly at the box office — despite all the hype. Hollywood feared there would be serious financial implications to defying the will of the public so ostentatiously — and backed off.

    That’s all we need to do — every person in his place — speak out, write letters to the editor, talk to friends — and stay away from R-rated movies. It does make a difference, because the bottom line is, Hollywood cares about the bottom line.

    BTW when I said above that I have rachmanus — sympathy and compassion — for the victims but not for the perps, the perps I was thinking of are the Hollywood sin pushers, and the victims I was thinking of are people with homosexual tendencies (or adulterous tendencies) who don’t want to act on their unholy desires but who find themselves seduced by Hollywood’s awesome cultural power.

    I would like to make it clear that I consider any attempt to win Hollywood’s Jews away from the Dark Side by sweet-talking them an utterly futile and doomed undertaking. The very worst people in America are the ones who are most attracted to Hollywood, the writers, directors, actors, the ruthlessly ambitious, the most narcissistic, the most contemptuous of religion, the self-absorbed, the biggest know-it-alls, the least susceptible to any appeal to reason or decency.

    But they do want to be popular and they do want to make gobs of money, and that is where the power of ordinary people lies — in our ability to withhold what Hollywood most craves.

  • Moshico

    Toby thanks for your comments
    When I was single I was not sure of my feelings I felt mixed up, my homosexual feelings got much stonger after I got married.
    Before I got married which was 16 years ago I told a doctor that I believe I am homosexual even though I had not acted out with any one his answer was “go and get married and it will all go away”
    So thats what I done I got married to a very pretty girl and the feelings did subside until we started to have marriage probblems,the normal things.
    My SSA (same sex attraction) feelings came back worse than ever.
    When I got married I did not tell my wife about those homosexual feelings which now I see was a big mistake one should not enter a marriage without putting all the cards on the table and that means both sides, my wife has her own baggage.
    I started to go to therapy and still do and about two years ago I finally told my wife.
    We are still married B”H she does not want to talk about my SSA she has pushed that under the carpet our other matters are more important to deal with in her eyes.
    I am having a tough time trying to grow out of my SSA but I will not give up I will not be like Jack or Ennis I want my children to have both their parents there for them when they need them and I want to be there for my wife, she needs me and I need her.
    I would be happy to answer more questions, and I want to thank my therapist(thats how I found out about this site) for all the help I get from him and from JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality)www.jonahweb.org which are two life lines for me plus my friends who I had courage to tell.

  • Ori Pomerantz

    1. Why shouldn’t Jews make movies? If movies are effective in teaching bad ethics, wouldn’t they be good at teaching good ethics?

    2. Are there enough Jews who normally go to movies who would stay away from immoral movies to make a difference?

  • HILLEL

    Michael Medved is a professional film reviewer for PBS (Public Broadcasting Service). He has his own show called “Sneak Previews.” Presumably, he knows the inside story of what goes-on in Hollywood.

    He has written, in his columns, many times that Hollywood would rather make a decadent film that loses money than a decent family-oriented fim that makes money. The Hollwood crowd are immoral, low-life people, fro the most part, and it is a characteristic of such people that they feel compelled to drag other, more moral, people down to their low level.

    Ben Stein, a professional Hollywood writer, has written a book in which he makes it clear that most of the people who write the scripts for movies and TV are secular alienated Jews.

    As Jews, we have an obligation to publicly distance ourselves from the Chilul HaShem–”Mideshoska Rabbanon, Shma Minei deneeche Lei.”–Silence is taken as assent.

  • Steve Brizel

    Anyone with a sense of history should be aware that Hollywood has always had a liberal-left cultural agenda that is directed primarily at the chattering classes of the Boston/NY/beltway classes. Hollywood has had some filmmakers who eschewed this PC thinking over the years such as John Ford. However, anyone who is seen as too patriotic, anti Communist, has a conventional
    home life and is known as a Republican finds it hard to make films there. Anyone who testified and “named names” re Communist
    influence in Hollywood ( yes Virginia, there were Communits in America-despite George Clooney’s spin to the contrary) is viewed
    as persona non grata. IIRC, Terry Teachout, a superb theater/drama/film critic for Commentary Magazine wrote about this in
    Commentary last fall.

  • Eliezer Barzilai

    Let me fill you in on what’s going on in Chicago. This is an article from the Chicago Sun Times, with a verbatim quote from Farrakhan which I appended to the article.

    Gov. Blagojevich’s anti-discrimination panel seethed with acrimony Thursday as two leading Jewish members resigned, refusing to serve alongside a Nation of Islam official who was unwilling to condemn controversial remarks by Minister Louis Farrakhan.

    Lonnie Nasatir, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, and Richard Hirschhaut, director of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, stepped down from the governor’s Discrimination and Hate Crimes Commission after Blagojevich refused to oust his embattled appointee, Claudette Marie Johnson.

    Also known as Sister Claudette Marie Muhammad, Johnson is the Nation of Islam’s minister of protocol who has resisted calls to criticize Farrakhan for his weekend Saviours’ Day speech.

    At a packed United Center on Sunday, Farrakhan hit “Hollywood Jews” for “promoting lesbianism, homosexuality” and other “filth.” He also said conservatives and Zionists manipulated President Bush into war.

    “When she didn’t come out and repudiate these incredibly bombastic, insulting and racist remarks, it really left me no option but to distance myself and recuse myself from the commission. We won’t be silent in the face of bigotry,” Nasatir said.

    Farrakhan’s Saviours’ Day Speech, Chicago, Illinois, 2/26/06
    “These false Jews promote the filth of Hollywood that is seeding the American people and the people of the world and bringing you down in moral strength…It’s the wicked Jews the false Jews that are promoting Lesbianism, homosexuality. It’s wicked Jews, false Jews that make it a crime for you to preach the word of God, then they call you homophobic!”

    So considering that your blog is correctly considered to be the leading exponent of educated Orthodox opinion, and the easy access the Internet provides, I want to emphasize two points. The first is that Farrakhan is always careful to say “false Jews,” which allows him to sound like he is giving us mussar for not being true to our heritage. Indeed, he occasionally says that there are Orthodox Jews that agree with him on both Hollywood and the war in Iraq. Second, if Farrakhan were to get a hold of your post, and your line about Jews of Hollywood etc., he would immediately use it to prove that he is not an anti-semite, no sirree, in fact, the true Jews agree with him, and said exactly what he said, almost word for word!

  • DovBear

    “Walk away from your marriage if someone sexier comes along” is a message that is really really popular especially in the Blue States

    Your view of the blue states is twisted.

    The state with the lowest divorce rate in the nation is Massachusetts. At latest count it had a divorce rate of 2.4 per 1,000 population, while the rate for Texas was 4.1.

    Massachusetts also leads in per capita and family income (in part, because they invest so much more in education) while births by teenagers, as a percent of total births, was 7.4 for Massachusetts and 16.1 for Texas

    For all the Bible Belt talk about family values, it is the people in the Blue states, who actually live these values.

  • Ori Pomerantz

    DovBear,

    By themselves, your statistics are not sufficient evidence. They can be caused by other factors.

    Are teenage births higher in Texas because married teenage pregnancies are higher (in many small towns in Texas 19 is considered old enough to have children)? Because there are more unmarried teenage pregnancies? Or because an unmarried teenage pregnancy in Texas is more likely to result in a birth, rather than an abortion?

    I’m willing to bet that the teenage birth rate in Bney Brak, a chareidi city in Israel, is a lot higher than in Tel Aviv, a chiloni (= non religious) city, too.

    Same thing for the divorce rate. Do people who get married and then get a divorce embody family values any less than people who just live together and don’t get married?

  • Charles B. Hall

    The higher divorce rates in the so-called bible belt are real and have attracted the attention of some political leaders there. Here is an example:

    http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewPrint.asp?Page=\Culture\archive\CUL20000721a.html

    Teen pregnancy (not birth) rates are highest in Nevada, Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas, lowest in North Dakota, Vermont, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Maine:

    http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/state_pregnancy_trends.pdf

    Maybe it is climate that is associated with lax morals? Another reason to fight global warming!

    Seriously, the nationwide trend is downward, as it has been for almost 50 years. And I disagree with Ori that there is nothing wrong with a lot of married teenagers having babies.

    Also, I don’t think “Jews in Hollywood” had anything to do with Brokeback Mountain. I don’t think the writers, directors, or producers were Jewish. And it was released through Focus Features, a division of NBC Universal, which is owned by General Electric, a publicly held company that has been well known for its support of conservative causes since Ronald Reagan was its spokesperson. Why do we complain about some vague “Hollywood” rather than the media coglomerates that are really in charge?

  • 4jkb4ia

    Hi Toby, I didn’t see the movie either, but the message that the NYT critics, for whom you have profound respect I am sure, got from it was that these two men had no business being married at all, precisely because they destroyed their families.

  • Seth Gordon

    How else could Hollywood have imagined a movie like Brokeback Mountain would have broad appeal? “Watch two men make love” isn’t much of a draw but “Walk away from your marriage if someone sexier comes along” is a message that is really really popular…

    The main character in Atlas Shrugged walked away from his marriage for another woman who, in turn, walked away from him when she found an even sexier man. This novel was published in 1957 and is still widely read and adored today.

    Artists that pander to the baser impulses of their audiences are hardly a 21st-century innovation. Indeed, I would say that they are a by-product of the modern economic system; we live in a market economy, and there’s always a market for sex.

    …especially in the Blue States

    DovBear has already pointed out that “Blue” Massachusetts has a lower divorce rate and a lower teenage pregnancy rate than “Red” Texas, and I thank him for defending the honor of my home Commonwealth. I would also add, apropos Ori Pomerantz’s follow-up question, that in 1996, at least, Massachusetts and Texas had the same rate of abortions. Note, too, this New York Times article, describing the drastic rise in cohabitation in “the buckle of the Bible Belt”.

  • Steve Brizel

    Forget about red and blue. Hollywood will always market envelope-pushing “indie” films or produce films that may be just a tad too controversial for an Oscar. That’s part of the process of producing a movie and advancing an idea at the same time. On the other hand, Hollywood has always been one off the refuges for the development and pushing of liberal-left mass thinking. Look at the strange career of Lillian Hellman, an apologist for Stalin and the placement of the brilliant Elia Kazan in the Hollywood equivalent of no-man’s land because he named names during the late 40s and early 50s when there was a substantial Communist presence and its fellow travellers in Hollywood and elsewhere.