Posted by: endithinks | October 24, 2010

On a warning about American Culture

Jackass 3d is the number one movie in America.  It has made over fifty million dollars in its first opening weekend and it has once again haunted my dreams and forced me to have a serious internal discussion about the direction this country seems to be moving into.

I’m not one of those purists that believes every form of entertainment needs to be Shakespeare or Broadway plays, after all Shakespeare had roughly half of the plays duration be an homage to the bawdy, but when a movie that showcases flatulence, human feces, and silly pranks tha cause bodily harm is the movie most people want to spend their money upon, I have to stop and take offense.  In fact if I wasn’t offended I would be offended.

American and by american I mean United States culture has always been a struggle between our lofty enlightenment roots and our slapstick craving, three stooges, America’s Funniest Home Videos stupefying, asinine antics.  We’ve been the country that brought forth novels like “The Grapes of Wrath,” and then turned around and made a best-selling children’s series called “Captain Underpants.”

American culture is in a constant state of change as we are influenced by other nations, peoples and cultures through the internet, travelers and the occasional american visitor to other areas.  Culture is the whole sum of a people and entertainment is one part of that equation.  It is a large piece for sure, but it is not the end all be all.  Education, language, food, traditions, holidays, military strength, technology, transportation, religion these are all pieces of the whole.  Entertainment is perhaps the easiest to see from an outside point of view, but it is misleading.

Imagine that you have never once met an American, you’ve never heard a song, seen a newspaper, or seen a television show.  Now imagine that someone shows you the movie “The Dark Knight.”  It is a dark and foreboding movie about a failed society that has to rely on an even scarier hero to put things into not a correct trajectory, but a better trajectory.  It is filled with crime, hatred, fear, violence, arson, and all sorts of debauchery.  Now, imagine that that is the only exposure to American culture you will ever see.  What type of society would you think produced this film?  What sort of dark and fearful society would choose to watch this on their spare time?

We tend to view all the produced entertainment as merely entertainment, but what does it say about us if we do spend the money we work so hard for on entertainment that glorifies violence, stupidity and self-inflicted wounds?  Can we be a society that values both the upper and the lower?

The dualistic nature of our culture is a blessing and a curse.  It allows us to turn up our noses and then snigger at the falling down the stairs I can has cheezeburger cats online.  We are more than the hollywood films that are broadcast around the world.  Our culture is the high, the middle and the low brow all wrapped up in one uncomfortable, loud and obnoxious hodge podge of a people.  if you really want to know what we are about then you need to look past our most popular entertainment and dig deeper into the more obscure and meaningful forms of expression.  Look to our family life, our community life, our schools that feed our children in the morning and afternoons, our dedicated police, fire fighters, and teachers who everyday put their lives on the line for the betterment of others.

Our entertainment is a break from the very serious and focused life we tend to live.  Americans spend more time at work than any other nation on the planet.  We take less vacation, work longer hours and fail to eat healthy foods during the work week instead substituting time for health at every turn.

Do I want Jackass 3D to represent American culture? No.  Is it a part of the whole that in my mind is quite discouraging and abhorrent?  Yes.  Like it or loathe it, until people start to understand that they vote with their dollars, films, and I use that term loosely, will continue to churn out the lowest common denominator in entertainment.  We get what we pay for and unfortunately that is childish pranks performed by ageing men in their underwear.



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