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September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘american culture’

A Republican Party that Looks Like America

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Getting an early start on primary season, Rand Paul stopped by New Hampshire and offered some sage advice for winning elections.  According to the article, “Senator Paul Rand urged New Hampshire Republicans to become more diversified.”

New Hampshire is 94.6% white, 2.9% Latino and 1.3% Black. I don’t know the exact diversity statistics for New Hampshire Republicans, but if they get a half-black and half-Latino guy in a wheelchair to run for something, they will probably have covered all the statistical bases.

“We need to grow bigger,” Rand Paul said. “If you want to be the party of white people, we’re winning all the white votes. We’re a diverse nation. We’re going to win when we look like America.”

Looking like America is common advice these days. What does America look like? For now it still looks more like New Hampshire than like California. And despite that, Democrats scored some big wins in New Hampshire in the last election.

Obama won New Hampshire 52 to 46 and it probably wasn’t the black vote that put him over the top. He picked up over 100,000 votes in Hillsborough County, which is 90 percent white. Clearly, despite Rand Paul’s optimism, Republicans aren’t winning all the white votes in New Hampshire. Or in Kentucky.

Rand Paul’s Kentucky looks a lot like New Hampshire. It’s 88.9% white. And its white Senator, who did not win all the white votes, decided to visit another white state to tell Republicans there that they needed to look more like America or California. Or someplace like that. Because the white vote was all locked down.

In his 2010 Senate election, Rand Paul won 59% of the white vote and his opponent won 86% of the black vote. Two years later, in the national electionRomney won 59% of the white vote and his opponent won 93% of the black vote. Both men scored the exact same percentage of the white vote.

Some might try to find a silver lining in that Rand Paul won 13 percent of the black vote, but he wasn’t running against a black candidate. In 2004, Bush won 12 percent of the Kentucky black vote. Nearly the same amount as Rand Paul. More importantly, he won 64 percent of the white vote and 58 percent of the female vote to Rand Paul’s 51 percent. The female vote is far more important, if you’re going to win elections, than picking up minority votes in New Hampshire or Kentucky.

While Rand Paul tours as some sort of expert on winning the minority vote, he has never actually won the minority vote. Similarly Rubio promises that illegal alien amnesty will turn the Latino tide for the GOP, when he could not win a straight majority of the non-Cuban Latino vote in his Senate election.

The Republican Party is suffering from a surplus of self-appointed experts in winning the minority vote who don’t actually win the minority vote. Their advice is stupid and destructive.

Romney did not lose because he lost the Latino vote. That’s a myth which has been discredited again and again, but still rises from the dead to push for an illegal alien amnesty, five times bigger than the last disastrous 1986 amnesty, so that next time around Republicans can lose by even bigger margins. But instead of trying to be diverse for the sake of diversity, the GOP might try doing what the other side did, increasing the turnout for its base by actually appealing to them.

The Republican National Convention in 2012 was a study in diversity. It was possibly even more diverse than the Democratic National Convention. It also didn’t work.

Diversity is familiar enough to be met with casual contempt. Every company trots out stock photos overflowing with stock minorities so that they can look like America or some part of America. It impresses absolutely no one. “Looking like America” is slang for racial tokenism which is both patronizing and insulting. And it’s the least innovative advice that could be imagined.

Common skin color alone does not win elections. If it did, the Republican Party could just push out countless white Democrats in precarious districts by running black candidates against them. The idea that skin color alone is representation is still the law and its emotional resonance is sometimes undeniable, but emotional identification is also based on more than just race. And representation cannot be reduced to racial diversity as a winning strategy.

The Sexualization of Our Teens is Becoming Endemic

Monday, April 8th, 2013

It speaks volumes about a culture when a president, whom by all accounts is personally honorable, is forced to apologize to an attorney general for commenting favorably on her physical appearance, while, in the same week that same culture defends lace trim thongs for teen girls with “Call Me” on the front and lace back underwear with the word “Wild” on the back.

Welcome to America and it’s increasingly bizarre relationship with women’s sexuality.

Did President Obama mean anything nefarious when he praised California Attorney General Kamala Harris as “by far, the best-looking attorney general … It’s true! C’mon.” I doubt it. Still, he apologized because, however innocent, it wrongly sexualized a woman who ought be judged entirely by her professional performance. Too many women are hired based on their capacity for window dressing with places like Wall Street apparently being some of the worst offenders.

But what is a more harmful transgression in the ongoing sexualization of women? A comment about a mature, brilliant, and fully grown female as also being attractive, or one of the America’s most famous undergarment companies targeting teens with green-and-white polka-dot hipsters reading ‘Feeling Lucky?’

Recently a teen girl came to see me. She had been sexually violated by a boy her own age whom she had considered a friend. After reporting the incident to the authorities, she wished to discover how she could recapture her innocence. “The world I inhabit is all about me and my friends being as sexually alluring as possible for the boys in our class. It felt good to get attention. I never believed it could end in something like this. Now I’ll never trust a man again.”

Now, granted, sexual assault is an extreme manifestation of the increasing sexual exploitation of young girls and, ultimately, regardless of the cultural factors, a man must never harm a woman, failing which he must face severe punishment. But have we no responsibility as a culture for the portrayal of girls as a boy’s play thing from an increasingly young age, and do we really believe that the growing degradation of women has no consequences?

Victoria’s Secret PINK label, with its new Bright Young Things Campaign, is a particularly egregious offender. Now, I am no prude and I welcome beautiful and sexy lingerie for women. I want to live in a world where a wife is always attractive to her husband and vice versa (although men wearing lingerie is probably a step too far).

But for goodness sake, do fifteen year olds need thongs with the words “Call me” on the front? Do they need the words “I dare you” printed on their backsides? Or “Let’s make out” printed on the most private parts of their bodies? Does any of this square with the message we’re trying to send to teen girls that they should be valued for their minds before their bodies?

And lest the argument be made that the PINK line is only for college-aged girls, Victoria’s SecretChief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer made it clear that the PINK lingerie line seeks to reach a teen audience. “When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be? They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at PINK,” he said.

As a father raising six daughters, I know that young girls are very attuned to the messages that surround them. My missive to my daughters is that I, their father and not some boy, is the one to love and validate them through their teen years. To seek approval and popularity from young men during their development years would only exploit their insecurities and vulnerabilities. But if they wait until there are adults they will have the inner strength to choose a man based on virtue rather than desperation. They will find a soul mate who respects them rather than a man who takes advantage (as if their father would ever allow that in the first place).

But it’s everywhere. James Franco’s new film Spring Breakers which I have not seen, is apparently so exploitive of teen girls, depicting them in the most debauched and degrading light, that even mainstream reviewers, not easily shockable, are shocked. Writing in Cinemablend.com, Sean O’Connell said, “Spring Breakers feels like the floor of a Tampa Bay strip club. It’s sticky, slimy, dirty and has seen far more depravity and corruption than one should handle.”

The Deconstruction of Marriage

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

The only question worth asking about gay marriage is whether anyone on the left would care about this crusade if it didn’t come with the privilege of bulldozing another civilizational institution.

Gay marriage is not about men marrying men or women marrying women, it is about the deconstruction of marriage between men and women. That is a thing that many men and women of one generation understand but have trouble conveying to another generation for whom marriage has already largely been deconstructed.

The statistics about the falling marriage rate tell the tale well enough. Marriage is a fading institution. Family is a flickering light in the evening of the West.

The deconstruction is destruction. Entire countries are fading away, their populations being replaced by emigrants from more traditional lands whose understanding of the male-female relationship is positively reactionary. These emigrants may lack technology or the virtues of civilization, and their idea of marriage resembles slavery more than any modern ideal, but it fulfills the minimum purpose of any group, tribe or country– it produces its next generation.

The deconstruction of marriage is not a mere matter of front page photos of men kissing. It began with the deconstruction of the family. Gay marriage is only one small stop on a tour that includes rising divorce rates, falling childbirth rates and the abandonment of responsibility by twenty and even thirty-somethings.

Each step on the tour takes apart the definition and structure of marriage until there is nothing left. Gay marriage is not inclusive, it is yet another attempt at eliminating marriage as a social institution by deconstructing it until it no longer exists.

There are two ways to destroy a thing. You can either run at it while swinging a hammer with both hands or you can attack its structure until it no longer means anything.

The left hasn’t gone all out by outlawing marriage, instead it has deconstructed it, taking apart each of its assumptions, from the economic to the cooperative to the emotional to the social, until it no longer means anything at all. Until there is no way to distinguish marriage from a temporary liaison between members of uncertain sexes for reasons that due to their vagueness cannot be held to have any solemn and meaningful purpose.

You can abolish democracy by banning the vote or you can do it by letting people vote as many times as they want, by letting small children and foreigners vote, until no one sees the point in counting the votes or taking the process seriously. The same goes for marriage or any other institution. You can destroy it by outlawing it or by eliminating its meaningfulness until it becomes so open that it is absurd.

Every aspect of marriage is deconstructed and then eliminated until it no longer means anything. And once marriage is no longer a lifetime commitment between a man and a woman, but a ceremony with no deeper meaning than most modern ceremonies, then the deconstruction and destruction will be complete.

The deconstruction of marriage eroded it as an enduring institution and then as an exclusive institution and finally as a meaningful institution. The trendy folk who claim to be holding off on getting married until gay marriage is enacted are not eager for marriage equality, they are using it as an excuse for an ongoing rejection of marriage.

Gay marriage was never the issue. It was always marriage.

In the world that the deconstructionists are striving to build, there will be marriage, but it will mean nothing. Like a greeting card holiday, it will be an event, but not an institution. An old ritual with no further meaning. An egotistical exercise in attention-seeking and self-celebration with no deeper purpose. It will be a display every bit as hollow as the churches and synagogues it takes place in.

The deconstruction of marriage is only a subset of the deconstruction of gender from a state of being to a state of mind. The decline of marriage was preceded by the deconstruction of gender roles and gay marriage is being succeeded by the destruction of gender as anything other than a voluntary identity, a costume that one puts on and takes off.

Societal Abandonment of the Bible as a Moral Guide

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Recently, one of the original sponsors of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio – changed his mind. He now supports same sex marriage. DOMA defines marriage applicable only to a man with a woman. It does not extend marital benefits to same sex marriages. This act was passed and endorsed by President Clinton who has also recently changed his views about it. Many states now have passed legislation that allows same sex couple to get married.

I have long ago stated my views about homosexuality and my opposition to gay marriage. The short version is that homosexuals should be treated like the human beings they are. And that we not focus on who they are attracted to. To the extent that they might engage in behavior that is forbidden by the Torah is not anyone’s concern. Unless they do so proactively with the intent of promoting it as a legitimate alternative lifestyle. That has to be opposed as would promoting any sinful act.

And let me be clear about the sinfulness of the forbidden homosexual act. There are some gay activists that have a certain familiarity with the bible that want to reinterpret it as somehow permissible. The very idea of doing such a thing gives new meaning to the word rationalization. It is the height of absurdity to say that an act is biblically permitted when the bible clearly forbids it. The bible says what it says. You can’t rationalize it away no matter how much you would like to.

My opposition to same sex marriage is based on the fact that by its nature marriage is a religious ceremony celebrating the holy union between a man and a woman. Even though there is such a thing as civil marriages, in my view the source of all marriages is based on a religious idea. I don’t believe that there would necessarily be an institution called marriage without the bible.

Civil unions are an entirely different animal. The argument might be made that all legal rights granted to a male-female union should be extended to a same sex union. But in the phrase ‘marriage ceremony’ the very word ceremony has religious ritual overtones.

But this is not my issue today. What troubles me is the Zeitgeist of ridding the world of the idea that homosexual behavior is forbidden by God. It is becoming increasingly fashionable to view a clear act forbidden by the Torah as completely permissible and even laudable in that it is an expression of love that helps cement a loving relationship.

This is not a problem if one is an atheist. Or even a deist. It is not a problem if one is even generically religious without subscribing to any biblical doctrines. It is entirely libertarian. It is entirely humanistic. And even compassionate. But in my view as a bible believing Jew, it is wrong.

If one accepts the bible’s clear admonition against a forbidden act the way I do, they cannot be comfortable with the direction this country is going. It is one thing to be tolerant. That is a function of ‘live and let live’ – a dictum I subscribe to. It is not my job or right to tell others how to live, whether I approve of it or not. It is another to normalize a sinful act.

The forbidden act of homosexual sex is no different than any other act that is forbidden by God. Normalizing it and treating it as though it is permitted does not, I believe, smell good in the nostrils of God. It would be no different than normalizing biblical level adultery. Adultery is forbidden even if all partners are consensual as would be the case in an open marriage. Just because there is a lot of adultery between consenting adults in this country does not mean we have to turn it into a positive value. The same thing is true about the biblically forbidden act of gay sex.

The increasing pressure to repeal DOMA and encourage legitimizing gay marriage across the land is a move in that direction. It may satisfy humanitarians and libertarians. But is disconcerting to those of us who believe that it is wrong to place even a quasi religious imprimatur via what we want to call marriage to a union between members of the same sex. Because such unions imply that the sexual act that accompanies marriage is just as legitimate as the sexual act between a married heterosexual couple.

An American Tragedy in Steubenville

Monday, March 18th, 2013

A significant number of American values failures came together to create the tragedy in Stuebenville, where two teenage High School football stars, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl.

Foremost among them is the American tragedy of sexualizing teen girls at an age where they are not yet women. Madonna sexualized herself in her mid twenties. Brittney Spears brought the age down to about eighteen. Not young enough for you? Miley Cyrus reduced it further to sixteen. One wonders when our culture will feel that even sixteen is not a young enough age to sexually exploit girls.

Then there is the issue of sports as an emerging religion where those gifted to be athletes feel a sense of entitlement that often has them crossing lines to their own detriment. The idea that two High School football stars would think it acceptable to post pictures of a nude sixteen year old to their friends on social media shows how they thought the normal rules did not apply them. And this would be true even if there weren’t the far more serious conviction on rape. How sad that two young men have ruined their lives and done so much damage to a defenseless victim.

Next is the growing culture of alcohol abuse by minors. Alcohol played a central role in this unfolding tragedy with the essential argument on the part of the prosecution that the girl in question was so drunk there was no possible way she could give consent. One wonders why our youth are so inclined to heavy drink. Is it mere experimentation or is something deeper at work? Are they already, at so young an age, as unhappy as adults who have been battered by life and are therefore drinking negative emotions away? After all, no one in America really portrays the teen years as a bowl of cherries.

I passed my later teen years in an all-male environment in Yeshiva where the focus of my life was study. I certainly was a lot happier than the co-ed environment in which I was immersed in my early teen years where peer pressure, popularity among the girls, and a general self-consciousness made my life less enjoyable than it should have been.

Then there is the general tragedy of the absence of responsible parenting in America. The biggest question for me in this heartrending story was where were the parents? Where were they when the three teens left one party at 12:30 am to go to another? Where were they to monitor extreme drunkenness on the part of people not old enough to vote?

Many African-American young men are not raised with a father’s guiding hand. I was astonished, therefore, at the honesty displayed by Malik Richmond’s father, Nathaniel, when he said in a CNN interview that he had walked over to his son right after the guilty verdict and told him he loved him, essentially for the very first time. “I haven’t been involved in Malik’s life like I should have been at those early years. And I want to stress that parents should be more involved in their child’s life… be a parent and not a friend.”

No one is better qualified to address this issue than President Obama who also grew up without his father and is by all accounts a very loving and involved parent himself. The President has addressed the subject only lightly, but it’s time that he make this an all-out campaign.

But the greatest tragedy made manifest in Steubenville is the attitude of teenage men toward girls. Immanuel Kant wrote that the definition of immorality is treating a fellow human being as a means rather than an end. The abomination of American slavery was that a white child was taught to see a black child as a walking bale of cotton. Slavery trained a white man to see a black woman as lacking the same spark of the divine that lent him his humanity. When he looked upon the woman, she was stripped of her own dreams, her own opinions, her own aspirations. She was nothing but an extension of the white slave owner’s drives and ambitions. Like a third arm she existed to simply to do his chores.

The Shadow of the Gun

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Every day another one of the stories comes in. A teacher panicked by a plastic gun, an army man on a cupcake, a t-shirt, a pop tart chewed into the shape of a gun or a finger gun hits the panic button. Suspensions and lectures quickly follow as the latest threat to the gun-free zone, usually in the form of a little boy, is tackled to the ground and lectured to within an inch of his life.

Tellingly these incidents rarely take place in the inner city schools where teenage gang members walk through metal detectors at the start of the day. The safety officers in those schools, big weary men with eyes that look everywhere at once, don’t waste their time on toys. Not unless those toys are full-size, painted black and filed down to look like real guns.

It’s usually the schools where a shooting is wholly unlikely; where gun violence is not a daily reality, but an unlikely convergence of horror, that institutional vigilance hits an irrational peak as every school imagines that it could be the next Columbine or the next Sandy Hook.

The NRA’s initial proposal of armed school guards was met with an irrational chorus of protests. More guns aren’t the answer, was the cry. And the leading crier was the White House’s expert skeet shooter. In a country where law enforcement is heavily armed and gunmen are stopped by gunmen in uniforms, a strange Swedenization had set in. The problem was not the man, it was the gun. Get rid of the guns and you stop the killing. Schools across the country are banning not the gun, but the idea of the gun. It is a conceptual prohibition that is meant to push away the threat of gun violence by eliminating any mention of the G word. Gun-free zones mean places where guns cannot be mentioned, depicted or even symbolized as if the refusal to concede the existence of a firearm will eliminate the threat of it being used on the premises.

This isn’t a precautionary attitude, but a pacifist one. Gun horror is not a productive emotion, but learned helplessness disguised as moral superiority. Rather than teaching children to hate killers, schools are instead teaching them to hate guns. And reducing murders to instruments rather than morals, children are left with no sense of right and wrong, only an instinctive horror of violence.

Pacifists have always demonized armies rather than invaders. During WWI they obsessed over gas. During WWII, it was the bomber and the tank. During the Cold War they demonized nuclear weapons. In the War on Terror, they target the drone. By dealing with the object rather than the subject, they are able to avoid the question of moral responsibility. Rather than hold the Nazis, Communists or Islamists accountable for their actions, they extended a blanket condemnation over the weapons-wielders.

The American G.I. was just as bad as the S.S. man or the Kamikaze pilot or the Political Commissar. The only difference was in who had the bigger guns. And the one with the bigger guns, was also the most to blame.

That same attitude can be seen today when Israel is blamed for every battle with Islamic terrorists because it has the bigger guns. Rather than evaluating the nature of a conflict and the values of both sides, the pacifists score every war based on firepower.

While the left likes to indulge in stereotypes of gun-toting rednecks and bomb-brandishing generals, the only people who judge the worth of a man by his weapon are the pacifists, the gun-fearers and gun-hiders who mythologize weapons as black agents of evil.

To believe that there is no such thing as constructive violence is to reject free will. Without accepting the necessity of constructive violence, there is no good and evil, only armed men and unarmed men. Without constructive violence, two boys playing cops and robbers in the schoolyard are not acting out a childish morality play, they are becoming desensitized to murder, and without it a child with a pop tart chewed into the shape of a gun is on the way to being a school shooter.

If there is no such thing as constructive violence, then the police officer is not the solution to crime, he is part of the cycle of violence. And if that cycle of violence does not begin with a man choosing to use a gun for good or evil, then it must begin with the gun. The man becomes the object and the gun becomes the subject. American ICBMs become just as bad as Russian ballistic missiles. An Israeli soldier killing a suicide bomber is just as bad as the terrorist. There are no good guys with guns. To have a gun is to be the bad guy.

For decades the gun-control lobby has brandished assault rifles at press conferences and spent more time describing their killing power than their manufacturers have. The rifle has been upgraded to the assault rifle and now, in the latest Orwellian vernacular used by the White House and the entire media pyramid beneath it, weapons of war.

The dreaded assault rifle or weapon of war or killing machine of mass death actually kills rather few Americans. The average shooter doesn’t bring an AR-15 to a Chicago gangland dispute. Despite the number of these weapons in private hands, most of the killing takes place with handguns in the same parts of the country where large amounts of illegal drugs are sold, women trafficked and stores robbed.

Shootings in America are not caused by guns, they are caused by crime. Guns really do not walk off store shelves and go on killing sprees. That’s what criminals are for. But the trouble with that discussion is that it takes us into moral territory. Talking about guns is easy, talking about souls is not. If guns don’t kill people, then we have to ask the difficult question of what does kill people.

It’s a bigger question than just Adam Lanza pulling the trigger in a classroom full of children. It is a big question that encompasses the Nazi gas chambers and the Soviet gulags, the Rape of Nanking and September 11. It is a question as big as all of human history.

Pacifists once used to be able to address such questions, but they have become obsessed with the technology of violence, rather than the spiritual origin of violence. And the technology of violence is largely beside the point. Guns do not motivate people to kill. Nor do they represent that much of a quantum increase in death.

Some of history’s worst massacres happened long before firearms became useful for more than scaring off peasants. The heavily armed Americans of the 50s had lower per capita murder rates than medieval London. It isn’t the gun that makes the killer. It’s not the hand that kills, but the mind.

The gun-free society has little interest in individuals. Its technocratic philosopher-kings want big and comprehensive solutions. Their answer to gun violence is to feed a horror of guns. Their answer to obesity is to ban sodas. Their solutions invariably miss the point by treating people like objects and objects like people.

In the Middle Ages, rats were put on trial for eating crops. Today we put guns on trial for killing people. The left has tried to reduce people to economics, to class and then race, gender and sexual orientation. It has done its best to reduce people to the sum of their parts and then to tinker with those parts and it has failed badly. The best testimony of its profound spiritual failure is that the worst pockets of gun violence are in urban areas that have been under the influence of their sociologists, urban planners, psychologists, social justice activists, community organizers and political rope-pullers for generations. And what have those areas brought forth except malaise, despair, blight and murder?

Banning guns will do as much for those areas as banning drugs did. It is not the shadow of the gun that has fallen over Chicago, but an occlusion of the spirit. Social services have had generations to save the city and they have failed because the technocracy can reach the body, but it cannot reach the soul.

The gun-control activists drew the wrong lesson from Newtown as they drew the wrong lessons from WWII and September 11. The lesson is not that weapons are bad, the lesson is that people in the grip of evil ideas are capable of unimaginable horrors regardless of the tools at their disposal. A single man can kill a classroom full of children with a gun and a few men can kill thousands with a few box cutters. It isn’t the tool that matters. It’s the man.

Unwishing the gun brings us back to the sword. Unwishing the sword brings us back to the spear. Unwishing the spear brings us back to the stone club. And what then? When every weapon that ever existed or will exist is undone, all that remains is the deadliest weapon of all. The mind of man.

The gun, the sword, the spear and the club took countless lives and saved countless lives. Civilization has always balanced on a future made possible by little boys playing cops and robbers and playing with little green army men. They can either grow up to be the protectors of the future or the frightened men who will stand aside and do nothing when they hear the screams begin to come because they have been told that all violence is evil.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Hollywood is Dead

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Hollywood has no problem being dumb, sleazy and violent. Those are all known and marketable qualities. What it does not look is appearing desperate. Desperation however is what the Oscars of this year and last year have in common. They stink of an industry desperately racing its own age and irrelevance reaching for gimmicks to try and hang on to a younger audience.

The dirty little secret is that Hollywood hardly exists anymore. The industry is bigger than ever, but its bread and butter consists of 200 and 300 million dollar special effects festivals filmed in front of green screens and created in Photoshop and three-dimensional graphics programs. They star obscure or mildly famous actors and they do two-thirds of their business abroad.

America is still the official headquarters of the global entertainment industry, but many of the bigger projects are filmed internationally with foreign money and intended for foreign markets. What the American corporations bring to the table is the intellectual property which is why the latest spasm of mergers and buyouts has focused on taking control of every treasury of classic marketable properties.

Disney has put Star Wars, Mickey and Marvel Comics under one roof. It’s impressive from a business standpoint, but bankrupt from a creative standpoint. Old Americana is being milked dry for the sake of turning out another disposable movie starring familiar characters. The movies are actually still the same.

The blockbuster has mutated into its final stage. The “individual” movie is almost dead. Forget Jaws or Raiders of the Lost Ark. The modern blockbuster is seamless and soulless. An impersonal work that renders the director and cast irrelevant. The criticism has been made before, but what is new now is the percentage of special effects and the cost. The more expensive a movie becomes, the more risk averse its producers are.

If a movie is going to cost 200 million dollars to make, then it has to be identical to the other 200 million dollar movies that were profitable. The template is there. All that’s left is to plug in another talented Korean, British, Russian or even perhaps American director, and then roll out the same movie with characters from another property.

The movie must have collapsing skyscrapers, massive explosions and a few slumming character actors. What it cannot have is too much dialogue or plot, because those don’t translate well. How a movie will play in Topeka or even Los Angeles doesn’t matter nearly as much as how it will play in Beijing, Moscow and everywhere else.

Hollywood makes movies on the side. What it really does is manufacture special effects theme parks for other countries whose own entertainment industries are not yet ready for prime time. And the types of movies that it makes can be made nearly anywhere. And will eventually be made anywhere. Tinseltown is pretending to be artistic and creative, even while both qualities are dead as doornails.

These days Hollywood resembles the decline of the British film industry, kept alive by state subsidies and used as a talent base for other countries. At some point, American actors and directors will move on to next conglomeration of capital and audiences in Asia, the way that British actors and directors moved on to Hollywood. The next Hollywood will speak Mandarin. Its executives will buy up American properties and film them in China. The casts will be diverse, the plots will not exist and every movie will be mostly the same. In other words it will be exactly like Hollywood is now.

The blockbuster of 2025 will be Made in China. It will feature 1. Aliens 2. Robots. 3. Buildings collapsing. It will have a pro-China message, but the Western writers hired to insert some topical dialogue for Western audiences will throw in a few relevant lines for the version that is released here. The Indian, Russian and South American writers will do the same thing for their versions.

Hollywood will become the American distribution arm of a new global film industry that can make the same bad movies more cheaply and easily. Its executives will recommend properties for the head office in Beijing to buy up. Occasionally they may even be allowed to make some of their own movies. There will be plenty of nostalgia and the usual tawdry independent movies funded by taxpayer subsidies that you can find in Europe’s own buggy whip movie industries.

The big wheels of the industry already know this. But they don’t have much of a choice. Hollywood has been frantically chasing the youth market with each new incarnation of entertainment technology. Hollywood spent decades making movies bashing television for competing with it for its audience. Eventually the electronics companies that fielded the first television networks dumped their products into the same pool as the movie studios, but by then the internet had begun to take off. And all the movies demonizing the internet haven’t done anything to stop it.

The movie/television/comic book conglomerates are competing for younger audiences against video games and the internet. And the internet is winning. The median age for most of the entertainment industry’s products is old. Some of that can be attributed to demographic collection technologies that rely too much on traditional viewership, but much of it is just reality. Hollywood may bring in James Franco or the creator of Family Guy to host its industry party, but that doesn’t change how old it is.

The entertainment industry dumbed down its products to the lowest common denominator to target the teenager. And in the process the entertainment industry destroyed itself. Television networks killed family hour to chase upscale twenty-somethings and wiped out their own viewership. Their big brothers destroyed the movie theater by making it indistinguishable from an amusement park ride. The television network model killed networks and the cable networks that adopted that same model are about to get whacked by the collapse of the cable bundle business model. The movie model made the movie easy to reproduce by any country with enough capital and digital artists. These days that’s the People’s Republic of China.

Hollywood movies are already being made to Chinese specifications, complete with Communist censorship, and that’s only the beginning. If China’s economy does not collapse, then it will become the tail that wags the Hollywood dog. And Hollywood will be history.

The death of Hollywood would have been a tragedy once, but these days it’s almost a relief. It leaves behind a lot of great movies, almost all of them made in the past, and the best proof of that is the compulsive flood of remakes, reboots and reinventions of old properties. The spirit of the industry is gone and all that’s left is a shambling zombie picking over its own brains and living off past glories while throwing elaborate industry parties that are little more than an expensive glorified reality show.

Hollywood is still chasing relevance and the youth market. The theater conglomerates are figuring out new ways to squeeze twenty bucks out of customers in a bad economy to cover their own expenses which include revamping their theaters for youth-oriented gimmicks like 3D. But the problem is that in an economy where the under 20 and 30 crowd is out of work, those gimmicks are struggling to pay for themselves. Add in the high levels of unemployment among minority young males, who are the industry’s best customers, and the picture looks even bleaker.

The Chinese kid has some money to spend after getting through a long shift of making iPads or grinding for virtual money in an online game. American kids have less money than they used to and the internet offers entertainment, including the latest pirated movies, for free, often offered by sites run by some of those same Chinese kids.

In this solipsistic environment, does the movie theater even have a future? How much room is there for a business model built around digital entertainment that doesn’t run on the internet? Despite the billion-dollar grosses, theater owners are not entirely certain. There’s a reason that a thimble’s worth of soda and popcorn is so expensive and it’s not because movie theaters are doing well. It’s because everyone is behind and running up debt.

Movie studios throw fortunes into mediocre blockbusters and then spend the next three years wrangling over the profits, and cheating everyone from the director to the stars to their distributing partners of their fair share. Movie theaters pay out most of the money from the opening weekends to the studios and count on extended engagements to make money, but the modern blockbuster is one opening weekend after another with no extended engagements.

Everyone is deep in debt and counting on a string of hits to bring in audiences and save their business model. Everyone is merging and clustering together to limit the risk, while increasing the drag.

There’s no future in that and Hollywood knows it. The industry is locking down intellectual properties because it knows that it’s about to turn into Kodak after the digital revolution. An outdated business with nothing to offer except its rights to certain properties that more successful industries will want to make use of.

Hollywood is dead, but its corpse is still trying to carry on with business as usual. The inventive industry that mixed together vaudeville and adventure books into an entire industry that spanned the globe has long ago run out of ideas. Instead it’s marking the time, deadening its nerves and doing everything it can to appear youthful. The parties are still being thrown as if the industry has not changed, as if it’s still a band of salesmen and theater owners who opened their own studios and made and lost fortunes betting on geniuses and big concepts.

What we think of as Hollywood was a byproduct of the need to fill theaters, but the technology of filling theaters is being broken down on a more sophisticated level, without the need for creativity. What the big computers did to Wall Street, they are also doing to Hollywood. The future isn’t a silver screen, it’s a behavioral map of the most reliable ways of getting the industry’s best customers into a theater to watch a product created in slave-labor countries based on templates that run on numbers, not creativity, even of the three-act kind.

Hollywood’s past glories may live on as nostalgia, but it has no future. The industry is history.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/daniel-greenfield/hollywood-is-dead/2013/02/26/

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