Sex, Drugs and Violence

One of the reasons I enjoy “foreign” films so much is because they seem to still center around the story. Hollywood has been disappointing me for quite some time. Instead of centering movies around the story, they place more emphasis on sex, drugs and violence. I understand how those three words are not just part of our vocabulary but part of our society, but why can we not center life around words like health, love and peace. Why is it that those three words do not have the same level of weight as work, fun or food those things are also necessary to our lives and just as much a part of it. It even bothers me more that we can all have a perfectly normal life without drugs or violence, yet they are so important to movies coming out of Hollywood. I would feel more comfortable if Hollywood used the imagery to denounce those negative things, but it bothers me when it seems like they try to make them cool.

Starting with sex. I have no problem with nudity, but pornography in a major motion picture is just a cheap attempt at making money. Sex and nudity are a common appearance in Television outside of the US, I grew up seeing breasts on the TV screen in Colombia, here in the US a little nudity here and there is considered taboo. Magazines and even some periodicals had nudity and it was not something to be ashamed of. In the American culture however, nudity is a hot button that Hollywood loves to press. It makes the youth in this country so hungry for it. The porn industry keeps on getting bigger and bigger every year. It really bothers me that so many movies that could tell a story so much better without the gratuitous sex, are tainted by scenes where nudity is at the center stage shown in a very cheap way. It is at times very degrading to women to the point that I feel Hollywood does not respect women’s sexuality. I find it laughable that so much censorship centers on this topic, not because I believe it should be a free for all, but because it should not be made into the big deal that it is. Remember the half time, Janet Jackson boob moment? Nudity for adults should be natural, beautiful, not something to be either ashamed of or overly excited to see in a movie. The reason to see a movie should not be because Halle Berry is going to show her breasts, which was the reason for so many to go see Swordfish. I did see the movie, but it was because it was supposed to be centered on a computer hacker, I bet you money that there were people that went to see it and did not even know it had so much to do with computers before they saw the film. I don’t even want to start with the portrayal of adultery on film, that is a whole other post. I know that sex sells, but does it really have to sell movie tickets instead of a solid plot?

When it comes to drugs, they are glorified to a level that is scary. While I do understand that the use of marijuana seems to be ok with a lot of the US population, I don’t think that it should appear so much in the movies along with other drugs that are taken very liberally. Taking drugs in some movies is shown as something as normal as lighting up a cigarette. Unless drugs are part of the story, I don’t see the need for a character to have to “light up” or “snort” drugs as if it is a common occurrence of every day life. While most people have sex, not everyone does drugs. Again, this completely sends the wrong message.

Violence is also at the center of Hollywood’s 3 kings. Some might disagree with me, but I think that the constant glorification of bad-mouthed violent characters in the movies does affect us as a society. Scarface has become this generation’s movie hero. Enter a teenager’s bedroom and you will most likely find an Al Pacino poster. I did enjoy the movie, who’s subject was drugs, sex and violence, I also laugh at the various jokes that stem from it (Say hello to my little friend!), what I don’t like is the glorification of a character that personified everything that is violence. In Asian film violence is portrayed in a very different way. Fight scenes serve the purpose of telling the story in a very beautiful choreographed way. Some violent scenes in Hollywood are so brutal that not only do they turn my stomach, but they are burnt into your mind permanently. I love the movie Rounders, but the “beat down” scene is still very hard to watch. Violence serves the purpose of telling the story and not just to complete a weak plot. Watching this kind of violence tends to desensitize us, it makes it easier to see it on TV and not be as shocked as we should be when we do see it in real life. While violence is today’s reality do you really think that is should play such an important role in today’s movies?

I believe that movies about those topics are relevant, and I still want to watch them. What I don’t agree with is the need to have almost every single movie I see have one of those elements present just for the sake of box office success. Why can’t a good storyline be what draws big audiences? Why can’t we make words like peace, love and kindness be what excites us to see a movie instead of the negative ones we now have put on top of the marquees?

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8 comments on “Sex, Drugs and Violence

  1. “I don’t see the need for a character to have to “light up” or “snort” drugs as if it is a common occurrence of every day life.”

    Well, I’m sorry to contradict you but those things are extremely common. Perhaps not within your social circle, but if you consider society as a whole you will see lots of drug consumption all over the place. Smoking pot, for instance, is as common as smoking cigarrettes among college students from certain majors. Using X is ridiculously common if you are a regular of electronic music clubs.

  2. For people in their college years maybe, but not for the general population. I know there are heavy users, but for it to be an every day occurrence and keep a job, I find it very difficult. Most employers in the US do drug testing, and while this has declined in recent years, when I graduated from college almost every place where I applied required drug testing.

    I did note that pot use seems to be commonly accepted and well, X is a club drug but not everyone goes to clubs, and not every person that goes to a club does X either. I happen to be very lucky and a part of several social groups, and I am happy to say that a vast majority of the people that I associate with do not do any kind of drugs. I would venture to say that I really do not know an every day user anymore, even though I did know some in College. Most of the people that did drugs during the college years have moved on from that.

    Growing up in Colombia a lot of people might have thought that “drugs were something you saw all the time”, but I can honestly say that on my 16 years there I saw marihuana being smoked once. While I did see a lot more drugs during my college here in the US, it was not as common as some movies portray it. Maybe I was not in a high use major.

    My point still stands; the use of drugs is not a common occurrence of every day life for the majority of the population. And it is not the message that I want to send to the kids of the next generation.

  3. April,

    Thank you for the compliment you are too kind. I will look into that book, it sounds very interesting.

    Thanks again.

  4. I find it interesting about the violence factor.

    Being a Dr Who fan, I was interested a few years ago when the U.S. got to make a jointly-produced Dr Who movie that was shown in the U.S. first. At one point, our hero is shot and killed by a gang. It’s violent, yet but not anything more than you see on American TV. I remember that the UK version was toned down quite a bit and the violence as it were was one of the hardest cut. I remember comments that if it had been some nudity, there’d be no uproar about it in the UK as that was less taboo than the violence.

    Anyway, about the violence. I find it interesting that you bring up movies like the Asian cinema where violence is part of it. But I find that level of violence more a choreographed one. It’s almost ballet like. I think of John Woo films that feature great action pieces but they are so far removed from reality that you can easily go–yes, that’s just a movie. Unlike others where it’s a bit more realistic and easier to imitate if you will….

  5. Exactly Micahel John Woo is a perfect example. Some of the gun battles in his movies are extremely bloody and gory but you can see that it is a movie, it is fantasy, not realistic. Even thought it might in the end be a lot more gore on screen, it is part of the movie and it flows, violence in Hollywood at times seems too forced.

    The Matrix for example was a movie where the special effects were so blended with the story that they did not take center stage and steal anything from the movie. At least the first one. It flows and still leaves the story in the center, but the more and more I watch movies I see unnecessary violence, sex and drugs just taking away from the story instead of enhancing it.

    If I have not made this point clear I would like to. I am not against the portrayal of sex, violence or drugs in movie, I am just saying that do it in a tasteful manner and know its place. If the movie is not about those topics I don’t think hollywood should feel compelled to show them so much.

  6. I think your main problem is considering that movies have a pegadogical responsibility. I have a friend who was very angry after seeing spiderman because at some point spiderman calls somebody “a faggot”. She said that a hero shouldn’t say those things because heroes should be examples for society of how things should be done.

    You mention Swordfish. Yeah, Hally Berry appears there naked and yummy. Is that wrong? You said that it was unnecessary, I disagree: given the character she plays in the movie the scene totally fits. Sex happens, nudeness is also part of daily life. Drugs are normal as well, perhaps you’re just a minority. If you show in a movie a gang of young boys it is completely normal showing them smoking pot, if you have as characters a few clubbers, it is impossible avoiding the X factor. If the movie is about violence, someone is gonna be killed.

    It is not movie’s responsibility nor intention explaining people how to behave. For that we have schools, friends and families. Fifty years ago, somebody could have used similar argument to the ones you’re using in order to prevent black people from working in the movies. This guy could have said that he didn’t want his kids to be exposed to that. His mistake, and yours, is assuming that movies are the legacy we’re leaving to the future generations and that’s what we want them to see about us. In order to find out how the past was, those hypotetical future generations will watch the TV news from these days and they -without watching any movie- will conclude that we’re in a world full of anger, violence, poverty, drugs, lies and social disparities. Of course, you could also tell the news to stop talking about the bad things that happen and focus only in the good things -so future generations don’t see what we were-, but that’s not the way journalism, nor life, works.

  7. I understand that movies are not an educational tool, but as a society we have a responsability as to what we deem acceptable or not. It seems that as time goes by more and more becomes acceptable, and while I do not have a problem with nudity or sex I believe the portrayal of it is misleading.

    I agree with your friend, the use of language like that should not be allowed by “role model figures.” Everything a kid sees affects them, and believe me, once a kid learns something is ok, or funny, or even that it gets a reaction from adults, even if it is negative, they will use it.

    My problem with Swordfish was just how it was adversited, no problem with the nudity just that our society seems soo hungry for a pair of breasts that people would flock just because there will be some exposed. I believe that is just wrong, and that a movie would go that low (in my opinion) as to make its case to go see it because someone’s breast were going to be there… and it does not stop there, even some male actor’s butt’s have sold tickets. To me that cheapens the “art” of the movie and makes it purely a commercial product, that I know hollywood movies are, it just bothers me that we as a society have made that ok.

    Now I am not sure where you are going with my complains about Violence, Sex and Drugs with black people appearing in movie. That is just completely out there as far as any comparisons go… I think you have missed my point completely. I have no problem with those subjects being shown on movies, in fact I enjoy many movies and documentaries based on a lot of difficult topics. Movies (except for Documentaries) have little to do with journalism (unless you are making a movie based on facts), to me, movies are supposed to be art. What I am tired of is hollywood using one or all of those 3 things to sell movies and replacing a good story with just cheap (Snort, BOOM, f*ck).

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