I consider myself a humanitarian. No, I have not followed in Mother Teresa’s footsteps and handed out rice on the streets of Calcutta, nor have I started an organization such as the Make A Wish Foundation. I do not have a huge Twitter following or other social media presence; so, my scope of audience is pretty limited. I have, on the other hand, spoken to friends and classmates—heck, even my academic advisor—in an attempt to spur activism. So, where is this effort focusing? Hollywood. Yes, Hollywood, California. Some would say that Hollywood is the last place to focus any aide efforts: the place is full of millionaires and billionaires. But, alas, money does not buy one happiness, and fame does not cushion any tragic blows. In fact, the money and the fame of Hollywood are the problem: for the media, for the stars themselves, and for our peers and us. Three. Two. One. Showtime.
My father and his family emigrated in the late 1980s from a small island country in the Caribbean, to these pristine states. His first taste of America—his first interaction with this great nation—came through Hollywood. Now, my father did not actually go to California; in fact, he has never left the east coast of this country. “Hollywood” is an industry, a business, and a vehicle of correspondence. In 1853, the area now known as Hollywood was basically nothing but an adobe hut. By the late nineteenth century, the area had become an agricultural community, and in the early twentieth century, the area became merged with the Los Angeles, California area. As it is a very hot and arid area, it has proven favorable meteorologically for film and television productions. Therefore, it soon became a media and entertainment hot-spot. Hobart Johnstone Whitley, the late “father of Hollywood,” would have been ecstatic to see the buzz and popularity surrounding the area that he believed held so much promise. Yet, if he is looking down right now, I have a feeling that his head is shaking, and not in approval. Hollywood has been “alive” for almost one hundred years, and as it would be tedious to list every achievement during every year of Hollywood’s life, I decided to break its existence down into the following categories: the Roaring Twenties, The Nifty Fifties, and the Eighties, The Nostalgic Nineties, and finally, the New Millennium, which I have taken liberty to title The Rise of the New Celebrity/Pseudo Star. Following the birth of Hollywood, the first three categories were riveting and exciting, making Hollywood the place to be, and making the twentieth century all the more tragic.
During the 1920s—dubbed the Roaring Twenties—Hollywood’s cinematic section was a booming business. It is reported that an estimated forty million people were frequenting the cinemas each week to see movies, or “moving pictures.” The 1920s is also known as the silent movie era, during which moving pictures that were not accompanied by spoken lines, were very popular. Films such as The Phantom of the Opera, a silent horror film based on the eponymous novel by Gaston Leroux; Nosferatu, a German Expressionist film that is considered an “unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula;” and The Great Gatsby, based on the eponymous novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, saw literature coming to light, entertainment transgressing media. Art was reigning fiercely among the entertainment world. The 1920s also saw the birth of the Hollywood sign. Hollywood was well on its way.
Ask my paternal grandmother what year this is, and her answer always ranges from 1950-1959. Recently, she’s been sticking to somewhere around 1955. She treats that year as if it is her toddler child. “Don’t grow up. It’s a trap,” I’m sure she whispers when she coddles it at night. At first, I was not really sure why she is enamored with an era that is over fifty years in the past. So, I did what any twenty-first century youngin’ would do. I did a Google search on “1950s.” One of the searches that caught my eye and my mouse was titled “The Nifty Fifties.” To sum up the decade concisely: “John Wayne, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby.” These were three of Hollywood’s leading men. Having won an Academy Award, possibly the most prestigious award in film, Wayne saw a career that lasted about thirty years. Known for talents as an actor, vaudevillian, and comedian, Bob Hope was the entertainment world’s dream. A dashing man, Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby was a singer and actor, whose brass-baritone voice made him of the most successful artists in the 1900s. The 1950s saw the birth of television gold I Love Lucy, as well as the birth of Saturday morning cartoons. With almost 4.5 Million people with television sets, the 1950s was a remarkable decade for Hollywood and entertainment. Whether it was comedic wit, vocal vivaciousness, or dramatic deftness, the entertainment world filled to the brim–and possibly dripped over–with talent.
Next came the 80s, in which my parents became pre-teens. Some of the most powerful film creations of the era include E.T.: extraterrestrial, Star Wars sequels V: The Empire Strikes Back and VI: Return of the Jedi, Indiana Jones, and Beverly Hills Cop. The sub-genre of the teenage comedy saw an increase in popularity, with movies such as John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink. Though I was not born until 1993, I feel that I can briefly speak on the popularity of 80s teenage comedies, as Hughes’ Sixteen Candles had a profound impact on me. I turned sixteen in 2009, and unlike my wealthy, daddy’s girl peers on MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen, I did not receive a Ferrari, a Porsche, or a measly Beamer (yuck! Can you say “second class”?) to mark the sixteenth year to the day that my mother gave birth to me. Instead, I received a life lesson. My now-late paternal grandfather, who had been an orphan since he was twelve years old, told me that, more important that entering driving age, I was nearing adulthood. Maturity Town was where I would be living soon. He advised me to be honest, ambitious, and respectful, à la Polonius’ advice to son Laertes, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” and “To thine own self be true.” I had to make that connection. Again, I am a Shakespeare aficionado, and I make no apologies for my enthusiasm. It was like Sixteen Candles for me, in that, while I didn’t get some flashy bling to mark being one year closer to claiming Social Security benefits, I realized that the best gifts are those that do not come with a bar code or price tag, are not always expected, and help you grow as a person. Sure, I didn’t get the guy like Sam Baker did, but I got something even more revered and priceless. I’m no Ebert and Roper apprentice, but I believe that the true power of a work of art is its ephemeral nature, the fact that it is not just a “wonder” when it comes out, but withstands the test of time.
Then came ( drum roll, please), the last decade of the twentieth century, the 1990s. Some of the decade’s cinematic accolades include Titanic, Toy Story 2, and Schindler’s List. On the television front, the 1990s saw the increasing popularity of the sit-com (“situation comedy”). Shows such as Friends, Rosanne, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and, my favorite, That 70s Show “turned TV in new directions and defined the humor of the decade.” I myself was born in the 1990s, and I remember playing outside, but rushing back indoors to catch episodes of The Golden Girls (1984-1992) and Sister, Sister (1994-1999). Those two shows that I just mentioned really stuck out to me, because they have been incredibly impactful in my life. Those shows taught me that it was (cue the clichés) to stand up for what I believe is right, love myself, and enjoy being a kid. Now, I know that I mentioned that those concepts are considered clichés generally, but I do not subscribe to that belief. Being steadfast and assertive when it comes down to right and wrong, taking care of oneself, and enjoying life while it is here are over-repeated, but not to the point of banality. In fact, I petition that they be stated even more, because they are qualities that are vital to the health and vitality of the human–physically and spiritually/emotionally–yet, we are often told to tone them down. Confidence is often mislabeled “arrogance,” and we are always told that something is wrong. We’re told that our nostrils are too big. To loosely paraphrase The Golden Girls’ Rose Nylund (played by Betty White): [in quoting a late relative]: “The air’s free; [you] might as well take in all that you can.” We are told that our pores are too noticeable, our hips are too wide. Damn it, I am tired of this pseudo-constructive criticism. Those critics need to make like Roger, and go home.
Ask anyone who was a child in the 90s, and that person will tell you that its music and television programs were considerably better than much of those today. Take a listen to Tupac’s “Keep Ya Head Up.” I guarantee that you will not be disappointed, either by the beat or, more importantly, the content.
January 1, 2000 marked a new millennium. This marked the two-thousandth year of our Lord, the era of rapid technological advancement, and a devolution of content and appearance within Hollywood. “Hollywood,” as I have often used it here, has not solely referred to an area within Los Angeles, California. “Hollywood” here is synonymous with the American film and television industries. These industries were often known for their inspirational, enlightening. Don’t get me wrong, as some of them still are. Brokeback Mountain and Beasts of the Southern Wild are just two of some many remarkable pieces from this millennium. Yet, they’re generally overshadowed by the likes of pseudo stars and pseudo art.
Reality television, perhaps the most popular form of pseudo art, came about in the 1990s, with MTV’s The Real World, but it was not until the 2000s that this baseless television genre began to see incredible popularity. The 2000s saw the birth of The Simple Life, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, The Real Housewives franchise, Basketball Wives, Love & Hip Hop, The Bad Girls Club, etc. Unlike shows such as The Voice and The Biggest Loser, the aforementioned television programs feature no talent, no real substance. Don’t get me wrong: I love watching Brandi Glanville unleash on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and I always tune in to its spin-off, Vanderpump Rules. It is nice to look at these shows and realize that my life is not bad at all; at least I’m not like they are. The problem is that this is where much of entertainment is focused. Meryl Streep has taken a backseat to Kim Kardashian as far as media is concerned (except, of course, around Oscar season). There is this new “claim to fame” that some are employing, such as fighting on national television, making a sex tape that they know is going to be released (Kim and Paris, really?). As animals, we rely on our vision, such as seeing—and then escaping, hopefully—a potential predator, avoiding a food product that just doesn’t seem “right.” However, we are really now an aesthetic culture, for your looks matter more than anything. Artists are valued more for their shock value than their talent. Miley Cyrus gyrates on Beetle Juice Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Music Awards, sticks her tongue out almost incessantly, sings about popping Molly (MDMA), and she’s MTV’s Artist of the Year (“Wrecking Ball,” though, is an amazing song). What has made Hannah Montana the talk of Tinseltown? Shock value.
This is psychology at work here, people. We are used to seeing her in a certain light. To see her change, probably to her parents’ dismay, has really caught our eye. Most of us would not want to be in this position (money aside), but we can’t help but watch the train wreck.
Another big name is Kim Kardashian. She was Bing’s second most-searched-for person in 2013, thankfully topped by talent megahouse Beyonce Knowles-Carter. Other names on the list include Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and Nicki Minaj. Please, don’t even get me started on them.
Kim Kardashian is the daughter of one of O.J. Simpson’s defense attorneys, and as much as you may want to, you cannot fault her for that. She should not bear her father’s crosses. Running in the same circle as
porn star heiress Paris Hilton, Kardashian was bound to burst onto the scene. In 2007, Kardashian’s sex tape filmed with former boyfriend Ray J was “leaked.” I put that in quotation marks because I’m not buying the “woe is me; I never expected this to happen” bit. She knew what she was doing; she was marketing. Sex is no new concept, but the act of public depictions of sex is relatively new. Sex is so taboo. Therefore, the more you suppress and shame it, the more interesting it becomes when “exposed.”
I said that she was marketing, and I was right. Kim Kardashian has a series of hit reality shows on the E! network, has a shoe empire (Shoe Dazzle), and a line of endorsement, such as Skechers,which, of course, delivers on the sex appeal.
Type in the word “Kim” on just about any search engine, and I guarantee that the Kardashian one is the first to pop up.
So, how is this a humanitarian endeavor of mine? Simple: i hope that we become aware that the media is reflective of us. They give us what we want. What one Earth does that say about us as a society (generalization)? We are the products of millennia of evolution; yet, this baseless, shameful content is that which we seek. Gag. Therefore, we have the power to change it. Teen Mom 3 was canceled, for practically no one was watching it. This stuff is not really affecting me, for I don’t pay much attention to it. You all are free to live as you want; I just want to know if this is really how you want to live. To change the world, we must change ourselves. Our media, how we interact with others, is one sure-fire way.