Is Hollywood Filled With Artistic Cowards?


By: Warner Todd Huston

Hollywood loves to abuse young girls and routinely depicts underage and taboo breaking sexual encounters, not to mention its perennial depiction of extreme violence, so it is amazing that every year we are treated to Hollywood types decrying that the film industry is “afraid to take chances” in film. The so-called artists of Hollywood imagine that the corporate side of the industry refuses to let them push the envelope, and yearly we are treated to their declamations of being stifled and their artistic integrity assailed. Far from unusual, though, nearly every year there is at least one movie that goes over the top, becomes the “daring” one, the one that is “brave” enough to so casually mistreat women and put them in abusive situations and nearly every year these soft core porn debacles are presented as if they are somehow different, somehow bucking a trend. Each year some new producer, writer or star is quoted to the effect that other movies are somehow “afraid” to tackle such subject matter. But any look at the history of these film festivals reveals there is no such “fear” from Hollywood. These films are common as dirt and just as lowdown and gritty.

This year’s outrage making the movie festival circuit is called “Nothing is Private.” It depicts a 13 year-old girl who is ignored by her mother, beaten by her father and sexually molested by a decades older next-door neighbor. Roger Friedman called it kiddie porn and “the feel-awful movie of 2007″ and tongues are clicking about it in Toronto where it played on the 12th. But, the fact that a mistreated, underage girl is presented in such horrible living conditions and that the film is treated as “art” is no big deal where Hollywood is concerned.

The poster boy for faux bravery in film this year is the director of the trashy and abusive “Nothing is Private,” Alan Ball. He is dutifully quoted in the entertainment media as decrying how “afraid” to “take chances” the rest of Hollywood is. ”A lot of those reactions are going to be very emotion-based,” Ball gravely intones, “I know [the film] is very divisive. Certainly, my experience here this week has reaffirmed my opinion that a lot of this business is basically fear-driven. People are so afraid of taking risks and taking chances.”

And yet, as supposedly “afraid” as Hollywood is to consider this “brave” director’s trash, Warner Independent Films and Netflix just paid him $1.25 million to distribute his soft core, kiddie porn flick. Not so “afraid” as this self-important auteur claims, it seems.

And “Nothing is Private” is nothing unusual. Last year we had the bomb called “Hounddog” where a 12-year-old Dakota Fanning is brutally raped. And to mention just a handful of others, there was “American Beauty” from 1999 that centered around a 40-something man who fantasizes about having sex with a teenaged girl as well as “American Pie,” a supposed comedy about underaged sex that spawned too many even worse copies. There was “Crash” from 1996 where sexual satisfaction is stimulated in the film’s characters by automobile accidents. You can even go as far back as 1978′s Brooke Shields bomb called “Pretty Baby” where the young actress was cast as a 12-year-old girl whose virginity is auctioned off in a New Orleans brothel circa 1917. And who can forget “The Last Tango in Paris,” the Brando movie from 1972? And how many “new” versions of a “Lolita” styled plot can we suffer through every decade or so? The list of salacious film fare goes on and on unceasingly as far back as the debut of film itself.

And these are just the controversial sexual plot lines in recent movies. This is not to mention movies like “A Clockwork Orange,” “Natural Born Killers,” or “Bonnie and Clyde,” along with dozens of others that center on violence as the attention getter or films like “Dogma” or “The Last Temptation of Christ” that eviscerates religion to fan the flames of controversy.

With such a long list of controversial movies it is a bit hard to make the claim that Hollywood and the film world is “afraid to take chances.” Yet, every single year we get the next “wow” film that is supposed to break the mold, raise eyebrows, and presented as “brave” for its artistic vision all the while purporting to be somehow different.

Certainly the preponderance of the product that Hollywood churns out might appear as toeing the safe line of social mores, not stepping to heavily on the wrong side of prevailing public opinion. After all, most filmmakers don’t want to make statements as much as they want to make money. But, there is room in the film world for regular, inoffensive fare as well as that of controversial subject matter. But, for Hollywood to act as if they are somehow repressed or that their artistic integrity is routinely quashed is simply an outright lie as a look at the releases of any particular year is reviewed.

Hollywood does not lack for controversial films and their claims of “bravery” when trotting out yet another taboo busting flick is as much a fantasy as the stories they offer as entertainment.

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