Entertainment should provide individuals and families with relief from the daily trials that all must face. That’s at least the way it should be. However, the words “family” and “entertainment” don’t often appear together anymore, especially in Hollywood. All the big studios have long produced films that are far from wholesome. A recent court case underscores just how far they have gone.
The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has just handed a victory to the three giant studios, Walt Disney, 21st Century Fox and Time Warner. They have secured a preliminary injunction against VidAngel, a small Utah-based video-streaming business that provides family entertainment to clients.
The company’s crime? Stripping Hollywood movies of nudity, violence and profanity.
VidAngel is a company that custom filters objectionable material from movies and streams this sanitized version to homes at a cost of one dollar a day. Business is, unfortunately, booming for the family-owned business—there is so much to be filtered these days.
The giant film studios claim the VidAngel’s business model deprives them of revenue by undercutting and disrupting distribution networks. The company counters such claims by saying it merely works under the protection of the Family Movie Act, a 2005 law that specifically allows companies to stream lawfully obtained movies for home viewing with offensive content filtered out. Tiny VidAngel, like David against Goliath, has vowed to appeal the court decision. Nearly 30,000 donors have contributed to a legal defense fund. The company sees this latest effort as the last stand in a decades-long campaign to run the movie filter services out of business.
The business model argument used to secure the court victory sidesteps the real issues surrounding the controversy. The real problem is not the business model of VidAngel but the moral model long adopted by Hollywood.
Hollywood Could Clean Up Its Act
Hollywood could easily put VidAngel out of business by simply keeping nudity, profanity and violence out of its movies as it once did. Instead, business in the filter services is booming because Hollywood insists upon putting a constant stream of offensive material in their films.
The Hollywood model works on the assumption that it has no obligation to uplift moral standards in America or the world. It bears no responsibility for the behaviors it promotes and glorifies. Thus, when Hollywood films are targeted to appeal to base instincts, studios claim they only aim to stimulate, excite or make people laugh. When people start to imitate the nudity, profanity and violence they see on the screen, the studios deny any connection. All of this is done in the name of entertainment. It really isn’t entertainment but gratification.
The problem with gratifying base instincts is that they are never satisfied. The unruly passions always demand more, and Hollywood responds by lowering the standards yet further and pushing the envelope to levels once deemed unacceptable. That is why VidAngel is successful since many parents naturally want to take measures of self-defense against this immoral cultural offensive.
By denying its responsibility to uplift culture, Hollywood actively brings it down. It presents violent role models in which the distinction between good and evil are often confused. With its nudity and promiscuity, it glorifies a hypersexual culture. With its crass narratives, Hollywood has brought vulgarity to language, behavior and relationships.
But Hollywood has done much more than simply promote objectionable conduct. The effects of this “entertainment” would certainly be less if it were merely a pastime or fad. However, entertainment now permeates everything. It is to be found in university “safe spaces,” the evening news, national elections and religious sermons. Everything must be in some way entertaining, vulgar or funny. This “entertainment” obsession imposes itself upon the nation so that things no longer have consequences and nothing can be taken seriously anymore.
Worst of all, such “entertainment” separates individuals from the seriousness of those important life questions that explore the meaning and purpose of existence. In their place, modern “entertainment” fills the void with false content, artificial rules and trivial goals, which contributes to a spirit of unhappiness and depression that haunts all modern societies that relentlessly pursue material happiness.
There was a time when the Disney name was itself a filter against profanity, nudity and violence. It could be trusted to filter out harmful content. Now, Disney and others are unapologetically suing to preserve their right to continue producing films with objectionable content and prevent their filtering.
Entertainment needs to return to its roots of uplifting culture. Anything else is not culture and not entertainment. Why not call it what it is—dirt that the studios need to filter out.
As seen on The Stream.