Recent scandals reveal the danger in entertainment industry culture.
Hundreds of gallons of virtual ink have already been spilled in chronicling the fall from grace of one of the most powerful men in Hollywood amid accusations of a decades-long pattern of bullying, sexual abuse, harassment, and rape: Harvey Weinstein. Hundreds more have been expended in examining the broader implications for the company he founded, projects already in development, women in the entertainment industry, and more.
This isn’t about that.
Well, it is and it isn’t.
To defend the entertainment industry against the indefensible, there are those who have said the stories written about Weinstein are only so much moral preening. That Hollywood, in this regard, is no different than any other workplace or industry in America. But while predatory behavior and workplace harassment may be common, Hollywood is an uncommon industry, with a reach and global influence that surpasses any other industry or institution in the world.
In the days after the scandal broke, more and more victims stepped out of the shadows to share their stories of abuse, harassment and assault; not just at the hands of Weinstein, but other high-placed executives in the entertainment industry, as well. James Van Der Beek (star of Dawson’s Creek) reported being groped by older, powerful men in the industry; Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon recounted her story of being assaulted by a director at the age of 16; America Ferrera (star of Ugly Betty) shared that she was sexually assaulted at the age of nine. Nickelodeon just fired Loud House creator Chris Savino amid allegations of sexual harassment. Loud House is the #2 rated series on the network for children ages 2-11.
Given how wide-spread the problem of sexual abuse, harassment, and predatory behavior appears to be in the entertainment industry, isn’t it worthwhile to consider how a worldview that excuses and justifies this predatory behavior might be seeping into that which they create, and thereby influencing our shared culture, and in turn, influencing the world view of children who are the primary consumers of their creative output?
Theologian and philosopher, Francis Schaeffer wrote, “People are unique in the inner life of the mind – what they are in their thought world determines how they act. This is true of their value systems and it is true of their creativity… The results of their thought world flow through their fingers or from their tongues into the external world. This is true of Michelangelo’s chisel, and it is true of a dictator’s sword.”
How can the same not also be true of those who write, direct, edit and produce entertainment products? It would be naïve to believe they can leave their presuppositions, attitudes, and worldview at the door when they go to work. Their worldview is the prism through which they see the world, and it is the foundation on which all of their creative endeavors are built.
The evidence of this worldview in the entertainment industry is in plain view for all to see. Netflix recently launched an animated series called Big Mouth which attempts to pass itself off as a humorous look at puberty – but which sexualizes children in the crudest and most demeaning, dehumanizing ways.
And even if children aren’t the target audience for Big Mouth, this disturbing trend is also now showing up in programs specifically made for children. Last month, Business Insider reported that a Netflix kids’ cartoon, Maya the Bee, included a scene in which Maya “unknowingly stumbles upon a rock with a drawing of male genitalia on it.”
Going back, there have been numerous documented instances of children being inappropriately sexualized, or of inappropriate sexual content being inserted into entertainment products made specifically for children: A 1995 Loony Tunes allusion to prison rape, a thinly-veiled Rugrats reference to pornography, and on and on.
The reason the Hollywood sex scandals have dominated news cycles these last three weeks is because they affirm what many of us have long observed and suspected: that those who are setting the cultural agenda, especially with respect to sexual mores and attitudes, have an unwholesome worldview, and that worldview is influencing the world our children grow up in.
It is well and good that those who have been guilty of perpetrating sexual harassment and abuse are finally being exposed. But it is long past time for us to lift the lid off this sewer and expose the extent to which these worldviews have corrupted our culture.