|Why New Ethos?|
Why a ‘new ethos’ is Needed in Entertainment
“Embrace a New Ethos that Awakens Rather Than Violates the Soul”
In 1987, the late and dear Pope John Paul II, an artist, visited Los Angeles, California. One of the evenings, at the Registry Hotel, he spoke to the entertainment community, saying “you represent one of the most important American influences on the world today…it is in fact that your smallest decisions can have global impact.” He talked about the current state of entertainment ("current ethos") and buttressed his address to the entertainment world with a challenge, “The challenge of Moses to the people of Israel is applicable to all of us today, (and in particular to the entertainment culture): ‘I set before you life and death… choose life.’” [Dt. 30:19].
The challenge of Moses was a call to something great. The call for a “new ethos” in entertainment is a call made not only to the entertainment industry but also to the Catholic Church, in how it relates to artists and entertainment professionals, and to all who can gain greatly from their experience of entertainment. The call is to let go of the current “ethos” in entertainment, where relationships of use, isolation and judgment are prevalent. It is an ethos that feeds a creative spirit that violates the soul and sinks it into despair and death. The call is to embrace a new ethos in entertainment, where relationships of healing, mercy, and forgiveness reign. It is an ethos that will feed a creative spirit that awakens the soul to truth, beauty, goodness, hope, and life. It s a call for the entertainment industry and the Church to work together rather than against each other to preserve and continually unveil a true “State of Beauty” in our culture. The challenge is to answer the call to embrace a new ethos in entertainment (film, television, music, video gaming, fashion) that will awaken rather than violate the soul of humanity.
Pope John Paul II said in his address to the entertainment community in Los Angeles (1987) [speech to entertainment community] that “you have untold possibilities for good, ominous possibilities for destruction.” The current state of entertainment seems to be immersed in an environment that appeals and promotes what John Paul II says is debased in people: dehumanized sex through pornography, gratuitous sex and violence, greed through materialism and consumerism or irresponsible individualism; anger and vengefulness through violence or self-righteousness. The current state (ethos) of the entertainment culture is sinking into a toxic environment that threatens to pull humanity down into the dark depths of despair and death rather than lift it to into the lofty light of eternal hope and life.
The current ethos of entertainment, as experienced today in Hollywood, has its roots from the turn of the 20th Century in Los Angeles, California. Even the early years of Hollywood needed help from sinking into a pit of debase addiction. The Church, particularly the Catholic Church in America, could arguably be said to have played a key role in helping bring about the “Golden Era” of Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s. But it could also be said that the current ethos in entertainment can be significantly attributed to the narrow-minded attitudes the Church, Catholic and non-Catholic, and political America has had towards the artist community, particularly in entertainment. These attitudes pushed the artist community away from the Church, creating a sense of mistrust. The current ethos in entertainment, in part, represents the relational gap that has been created between the Church and the entertainment industry.
City and state censorship ordinances are as old as the movies themselves. However, after the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1915 (Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio) that motion pictures were not covered by the First Amendment, such ordinances banning the public exhibition of "immoral" films proliferated. The studios feared that federal regulations were not far off.
In the early part of the 20th century, Good Housekeeping wrote that the movie theater was fast becoming “a primary school for criminals.” (1910). Indecency in films (e.g., violence, sexuality) was increasingly becoming prevalent in the first two decades of the century. The Sins of Hollywood (1922), a best-selling book, chronicled much of the scandalous behavior of movie stars like Mary Pickford and Fatty Arbuckle and soon Hollywood became viewed as the “devils incubator.”
In the early 1920s, three major scandals had rocked Hollywood: the manslaughter trials of comedy star Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle who was charged with being responsible for the death of actress Virginia Rappe at a wild party in San Francisco during Labor Day weekend of 1921; the murder of director William Desmond Taylor in February 1922 and the revelations regarding his bisexuality; and the drug-related death of popular actor Wallace Reid in January 1923. Other drug-related deaths of stars Olive Thomas, Barbara La Marr, Jeanne Eagels, and Alma Rubens resulted in persistent calls for censorship and "cleaning up" of Hollywood all through the '20s. These stories were sensationalized in the press and grabbed headlines across the country. They appeared to confirm a widespread perception that many Americans had of Hollywood — that it was "Sin City". Large Catholic dioceses (e.g., Boston, Chicago, Detroit) began to set up independent censorship boards in their respective dioceses to be vigilant over the abuses in motion pictures.
Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle
Movies, such as those depicted above, were under severe criticism for the portrayal of immoral behavior. In Cleopatra (1918), Theda Bara, portraying Cleopatra, was in risque costumes. Soon the federal government was scrutinizing Hollywood for obscenity laws. Hollywood producers were as anxious to make money as movies were also fearful of federal censorship and therefore began an industry code for self-censorship. This code was called the Thirteen Points.
The advent of talking pictures in 1927 signaled the need for further enforcement. Martin J. Quigley, the publisher of a Chicago-based motion picture trade newspaper, began lobbying for a more extensive code that not only listed material that was inappropriate for the movies, but also contained a moral system that the movies could help to promote. He recruited Father Daniel Lord, a Jesuit priest from Chicago. In 1927, Fr. Lord served as a consultant to Cecil B. DeMille for his silent film, King of Kings. The advent of talkies alarmed him. "Silent smut had been bad," he would write in his autobiography, Played by Ear. "Vocal smut cried to the censors for vengeance."
Cardinal George Mundelein
In 1929, Fr. Lord began work on the Production Code, as envisioned by Martin Quigley and bolstered by George Cardinal Mundelein, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago. "Here was a chance to read morality and decency into mass recreation," Lord wrote. He aimed "to tie the Ten Commandments in with the newest and most widespread form of entertainment," aspiring to an ecumenical standard of decency, so that "the follower of any religion, or any man of decent feeling and conviction, would read it and instantly agree." On March 31, 1930 the board of directors of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), later to become the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), formerly adopted this code. Hollywood had been looking to make an alliance with a conservative leaning group that would leave the federal government with the impression that no intervention in the industry was necessary.
Will H. Hays
Hollywood called on Will Hays, national chairman of the Republican Party and a Presbyterian elder to enforce “the Code” (“Hays Code” or “The Hollywood Production Code"). In addition to Fr. Lord's Code, in 1927, Hays compiled a list of subjects, culled from his experience with the various U.S. censorship boards, which he felt Hollywood studios would be wise to avoid. He called this list "the formula" but it was popularly known as the "don'ts and be carefuls" list around town. In 1930 Hays created the Studio Relations Committee (SRC) to implement his censorship code, but the SRC lacked any real enforcement capability. The problem with this “self-censorship” was that there were not adequate powers in place to enforce such a code.
Hollywood's “self-censorship” did not win the confidence of the Roman Catholic Church and The International Federation of Catholic Alumnae was set up to refuse or recommend films that it reviewed. [e.g., In 1929, 49% of the films it reviewed were refused]. Further, from 1930 to 1934, Depression economics and changing social mores resulted in the studios producing racier fare that the code, lacking an aggressive enforcement body, was unable to redress. In response to such movies as Warner Brothers' "Baby Face" (starring Barbara Stanwyck) and Paramount Pictures' "I'm No Angel" (starring and written by Mae West), Quigley and Joseph I. Breen, Will Hays' Los Angeles-based assistant, teamed together to persuade the Catholic Church to bring pressure on the Hollywood studios. They helped to spearhead the creation of the Catholic Legion of Decency as well as boycotts and blacklists of the movies throughout the country. In 1934, the studios bowed to this pressure and created a new censorship body with real enforcement powers: the Production Code Administration (PCA) with Breen as its head. Hence, the era of Hollywood filmmaking from 1930-1934 is known as the "Pre-Code Era."
The Enforcement Era:
The Legion of Decency started out candidly to be "a pressure group." Once a year, in early December, U.S. Catholics rose as a body in church to say: "I condemn indecent and immoral motion pictures," and promised not to patronize theaters that consistently showed such films—a pledge that zealous priests and bishops sometimes translated into open threats of boycott. Films were judged on content alone, and given one of three ratings.
A = Unobjectionable
B = Objectionable
C = Condemned (for suggestive dialogue, lustful kissing, acceptance of divorce)
The Legion of Decency had great success in influencing not only the films Catholics would see, but also Hollywood producers and the types of films made for distribution and general public exhibition. The Legion’s success was attributed to a somewhat united Church effort to abide by the “Pledge”, establishing significant leverage to boycott unfavorable films. This “unified front” can be attributed to an official Church backing as reflected in Pope Pius XI’s Encyclical Vigilanti Cura which states in part, “An unceasing and universal vigilance must, on the contrary, convince the producers that the "Legion of Decency" has not been started as a crusade of short duration, soon to be neglected and forgotten, but that the Bishops of the United States are determined, at all times and at all costs, to safeguard the recreation of the people whatever form that recreation may take.”
The first major instance of censorship under the Production Code involved the 1934 film Tarzan and His Mate, in which brief nude scenes involving a body double for actress Maureen O'Sullivan were edited out of the master negative of the film. Another famous case of enforcement involved the 1943 western The Outlaw, produced by Howard Hughes. The Outlaw was denied a certificate of approval and kept out of theaters for years because the film's advertising focused particular attention on Jane Russell's breasts. Hughes eventually persuaded Breen that the breasts did not violate the code and the film could be shown. The Code even had its effect on the cartoon sex symbol Betty Boop had to change from being a flapper, and began to wear an old-fashioned housewife skirt.
Golden Era - Beginning of Fractured Relations- Emerging Current Ethos
Good Times [1940s - 1950s]:
The Legion’s influence could point to a surge of films that contributed to Hollywood’s “Golden Era” [e.g., Casablanca (1942), Going My Way (1944), Stagecoach( 1939), Song of Bernadette (1943)].
Signs of Fractured Relations [1950s]:
Unfortunately, The Legion’s (1934-1971) tone and “arbitrary censorship” widened a relational gap between Hollywood and the Church (films were judged by those without an eye for artistic quality, few if any of the reviewers were “Hollywood Professionals”). Some Legion members didn't help relations with their vocal judgmental attacks on the people of Hollywood, calling moviemakers, “the Herods of our day” engaged in a “massacre of innocents." The Legion’s image quickly became viewed as a negative approach to influencing the entertainment industry. The Legion would ban whole movies for a couple of suggestive scenes, looking only for moral content and disregarding artistic merit (e.g., Gone With the Wind). The Legion’s reputation as “censor” was dubbed by the industry as “that stern old guardian of movie morals.” And Hollywood was not necessarily too quick to abide by the Code. Their temptation to make money, and in some sense, to survive, was too great.
Hollywood was faced with very serious competitive threats. The first threat came from a new technology, television, which did not require Americans to leave their house to watch moving pictures. Hollywood needed to offer the public something it could not get on television, which itself was under an even more restrictive censorship code. In addition to the threat of television, there was also increasing competition from foreign films, like Vittorio de Sica's The Bicycle Thieves (1948), the Swedish film Hon dansade en sommar (English title: One Summer of Happiness) (1951), and Ingmar Bergman's Sommar med Monika (Summer with Monika) (1953). For De Sica's film, there was a censorship controversy when the MPAA demanded a scene where the lead characters talk to the prostitutes of a brothel be removed, regardless of the fact that there is no sexual or provocative activity. The Swedish films were the first to include nude love scenes, and made an international sensation.
Vertical integration in the movie industry had been found to violate anti-trust laws, and studios had been forced to give up ownership of theatres by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. (1948). The studios had no way to keep foreign films out, and foreign films weren't bound by the Production Code. The anti-trust rulings also helped pave the way for independent art houses that would show films created by people such as Andy Warhol and others working outside the studio system.
Further, the MPAA revised the code in 1951, not to make it more flexible, but to make it more rigid. The 1951 revisions spelled out more words and subjects that were prohibited, and no doubt increased the opposition of movie-makers to the code. In 1952, in the case of Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overruled its 1915 decision and held that motion pictures were entitled to First Amendment protection, so that the New York Board of Regents could not ban Roberto Rossellini's The Miracle. This became known as the "Miracle Decision" due to its connection to Rossellini's film. That in turn reduced the threat of government regulation that justified the production code.
At the forefront of challenges to the code was director Otto Preminger, whose films violated the code repeatedly in the 1950s. His 1953 film The Moon is Blue, about a young woman who tries to play two suitors off against each other by claiming that she plans to keep her virginity until marriage, was the first film to use the words "virgin", "seduce" and "mistress", and it was released without a certificate of approval. He later made The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), which portrayed the prohibited subject of drug abuse, and Anatomy of a Murder (1959) which dealt with rape. Preminger's films were direct assaults on the authority of the Production Code and, since they were successful, hastened its abandonment.
In 1954, Joseph Breen retired and Geoffrey Shurlock was appointed as his successor. Variety noted "a decided tendency towards a broader, more casual approach" in the enforcement of the code. Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959) and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) were also released without a certificate of approval due to their themes, and further weakened the authority of the code. Finally, a boycott from the Legion of Decency no longer guaranteed a commercial failure, and thus the Code prohibitions began to vanish when Hollywood producers ignored the Code and were still able to earn profits.
The Hollywood "Blacklist" Episodes:
Mention must be made about the "Blacklist" trials before the House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The result of these trials created much distrust and animosity between conservative politics and the Hollywood creative community, much of what remains today. The "Hollywood Left" could be said to have arisen from these trials, where conservative politics can have a tendency to be seen as an enemy to the creative process. The "Hollywood Blacklist" was list of screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals who were denied employment in the field because of their political beliefs or associations, real or suspected, especially as it related to the Communistic party. 10 refused to cooperate with the proceedings and were jailed for contempt. The Hollywood Blacklist episodes effected many careers where no more than 10% would be able to return to studio work. Charlie Chaplin, for one, was hunted down and not allowed to re-enter the US following trip to Europe until 1972 when apologetic Hollywood honored him at the Oscar’s with a Life time Achievement Award.
Chaplin, as well as many other suspects in Hollywood, ended up not being members of the Communistic Party and were mostly liberal and radical thinkers. These thinkers were advocates of social change, and critical of foreign policy.
A "Current Ethos" in Filmmaking Takes Shape [1960s - 1970s]:
A change of climate was taking place both within Hollywood and the Catholic Church. On the forefront of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council (1962-1965), Pope Pius XII issued in 1957 the encyclical Miranda Prorsus (MP). This document reflected the pastoral approach the Vatican Council would generally take in its approach to the modern world. MP suggested that Catholics should focus more on encouraging good media under the guidance of sound Church principles (i.e., films, television, radio) than just condemning the bad media. Consequently, the ranks of Legion reviewers, previously dominated by a coterie of middle-aging Catholic college alumnae, were expanded to include knowledgeable lay and clerical "film buffs," ranging from Jesuit professors of communications arts to English teachers, writers and admen. But again, where were the “Hollywood Professionals” in this mix? The “Pledge” lost its influence with consumers, especially as Catholics became less united and trustworthy of the Legion’s recommended and seemingly arbitrary boycotts. A relaxation in the “Pledge effect" eventually lead to a total relaxation in filmmakers’ adherence to the Hollywood Production Code. The film Bonnie & Clyde (1967) and especially the R-rated film Easy Rider (1969) point to this turning point in the types of American films put into general distribution. Easy Rider was a story about two counterculture bikers who travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans, searching for America and her freedom, but can’t find it. The film captured the era in a raw, jump cutting fashion, including dope smoking and sex.
Enforcement had become impossible as the Production Code was abandoned entirely. The MPAA began working on a rating system, under which there would be virtually no restriction on what could be in a film. The MPAA film rating system went into effect on November 1, 1968 with four ratings: G, M, R, and X. In 1969 the Swedish film I Am Curious directed by Vilgot Sjöman, was initially banned in the U.S. for its frank depiction of sexuality; however this was overturned by the Supreme Court. The M rating was changed to GP in 1970 and to the current PG in 1972. In 1984, in response to public complaints regarding the severity of horror elements in PG-rated titles such as Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the PG-13 rating was created as a middle tier between PG and R. In 1990 the X rating was replaced by NC-17, in part because the X rating was not trademarked by the MPAA whereas pornographic bookstores and theaters were using their own trademark X and XXX symbols to market their products.
Further Development of "Current Ethos" in Entertainment [1970s]:
1970s opened with Hollywood facing a financial slump, reflecting the monetary woes of the nation as a whole during the first half of the decade. Despite this, the seventies proved to be a benchmark decade in the development of cinema, both as an art form and a business. The young filmmakers of the 1970s began taking greater risks and restrictions regarding language and sexuality lifting, Hollywood produced what has come to be some of its most critically acclaimed and financially successful films since its supposed "golden era."
The early '70s brought a rebirth of the gritty crime film. The French Connection, starring Gene Hackman as a drug detective while Get Carter featured gratuitous nudity and A Clockwork Orange featured a rape scene and much blood and gore to complement its complex story. An adaptation of a Mario Puzo novel, The Godfather, became one of the best-loved and most respected works of cinema upon its release in 1972. Beyond the violence and drama were themes of love, pride, and greed.
Throughout the seventies, the horror film developed into a lucrative genre of film. It began in 1973 with the terrifying The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin and starring the young Linda Blair. The film saw massive success, and the first of several sequels was released in 1977. 1976 brought the equally creepy suspense thriller, Marathon Man, about a man who becomes the target of a former Nazi dentist's torment after his brother dies. The same year, the Devil himself made an appearance in The Omen, about the spawn of Satan. 1978's Halloween was a precursor to the "slasher" films of the eighties and nineties with its psychopathic Michael Myers. Cult horror films were also popular in the seventies, such as Wes Craven's early gore films Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, as well as Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
There were the blockbuster film franchise successes of Jaws and George Lucas science-fiction epic Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the superhero Superman.
Younger audiences were also beginning to be the focus of cinema, after the huge blockbusters that had attracted them back to the theater. John Travolta became popular in the pop-culture landmark films, Saturday Night Fever, which introduced Disco to middle America, and Grease, which recalled the world of the 1950s. Comedy was also given new life in the irreverent Animal House, set on a college campus during the 1960s. Up in Smoke, starring Cheech and Chong, was another irreverent comedy about marijuana use that became popular among teenagers.
The decade closed with two films chronicling the Vietnam War, Michael Cimino's and Francis Ford Coppola's The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now.
This historical overview of Hollywood films, especially as seen in the 1970s (historical development), indicates that the current ethos in entertainment is definitely not totally corrupt. There are very few comparable gifts to humanity when Hollywood is "on their game." But these bright lites of truth, beauty, and goodness in entertainment seem to be less frequent and the gratuitously violent, sexually promiscuous, and other vices more prevalent.
There is a downward spiral trend being experienced in the current ethos of entertainment. Hollywood, motivated by greed, is providing the public with more entertainment that feeds their "self-gratifying" desires. In seeking ways to be competitive and satisfy the consumers base desires, Hollywood seems to be providing more entertainment that sinks deeper into the pit of falsehood, ugliness, and badness.
This historical focus has been on film, but this downward spiral trend of the current ethos in entertainment can be related to other sectors of the industry - namely, television, music, Internet, fashion, and the fast growing video gaming industry. New Ethos seeks to reach out to each of these industries and identify where truth, beauty, and goodness are present and honor those moments. The "new ethos" in entertainment that is envisioned will be the everlasting upward trend in entertainment, where people experience an overarching spirit of truth, beauty, and goodness. The current ethos that is contributing to the downward spiral in entertainment will be reversed upwardly through relationship and respectful dialogue between the Church and entertainment industry. This is a dialogue on exploring the essence of truth, beauty, and goodness in entertainment. A dialogue where the ultimate objective is to embrace a new ethos in entertainment that awakens rather than violates the soul is essential.
The Challenges to “Embracing” a New Ethos in Entertainment
A “new ethos” movement in the entertainment culture will benefit the audience, the Entertainment Industry, and the Church, among other sectors of society. New Ethos believes that for this needed movement to come about, the following four challenges will need to be met: For the audience to realize their power; for "Catholic Hollywood" to work in collaboration and for unity for the sake of the big picture versus personal agendas; for the Catholic community at large to view that "Hollywood is not Evil"; and for the secular entertainment community to trust working with the Church.
Challenge #1: Catholic (and all) Consumers: Realize Your Power
First, the consumer will need to realize that entertainment within itself can be a good and holy gift from God. Excellence in entertainment can operate much like, if not better, than an excellent homily or sermon. The Catholic-Christian consumer must open themselves up to the great opportunities for personal and spiritual growth that true, beautiful, and good entertainment offers. The consumer must be ready to embrace a broader scope and a "new ethos" in evaluating entertainment, while not compromising their values, or violating their human dignity.
Secondly, the consumer will need to realize that they can exercise a powerful influence through supporting favorable entertainment as a consumer. The consumer, especially the Catholic community at approximately 80 million strong, can have a significant influence on the current "ethos" in entertainment. Hollywood executives usually look to box office numbers on the Monday following a films' opening theatrical release. The success or failure of a certain type of film helps inform their decisions for future film projects.
In the realm of film people for years, especially people of faith, have expressed displeasure and frustration in the quality of films released from major motion picture studios. Sometimes, the consumer contributes to such an ethos in entertainment. Every time a ticket is purchased at the box office, a vote is placed for the types of films Hollywood will next consider producing. Unfortunately, many Catholic-Christians have taken such a negative attitude toward entertainment ("Hollywood is Evil") that the vote is never cast because they are busy either censoring or boycotting films, or just too busy to go to the box office and cast the vote. Its time for Catholic-Christians to engage the culture and vote at the box office, DVD sales, concerts or the music they buy. The better a film does on opening weekend at the theater, or in DVD sales, the more likely these types of films (or other media) will be "green lit" for production and distribution.
Challenge #2: "Catholic Hollywood" - Work in Collaboration and for Unity
“The power of evangelization will find itself considerably
diminished if those who proclaim the Gospel are divided
among themselves in all sort of ways.”
– Evangelii Nuntiandi
Separately, there have been some noble Catholic-Christian efforts in entertainment (The Humnaitas Prize [Erik, here is link to provide on “Humanitas Prize - http://www.humanitasprize.org/] and The Angelus Student Film Festival [Erik, here is link to provide on “Angelus Student Film Festival” - http://angelus.org/] are examples). Unfortunately, “Catholic Hollywood” has been able to have only a limited influence on the current entertainment “ethos” because its efforts to award, promote, market and distribute entertainment excellence to its market base have been fragmented, narrow, and biased.
In order for the Catholic community to actualize their market influence for a "new ethos" in entertainment, they need to be well informed of what entertainment to support. The Catholic community needs an efficient mechanism that serves as a point of unity to help inform and give them a sense of quality confidence in entertainment to support - namely, a New Ethos logo that brands the media for exhibiting an overarching spirit of truth, beauty, and goodness. The logo must be awarded through a trusted, unbiased and well-informed resource, represented by entertainment mavens and experts without personal agendas so the best interests of the audience and true quality entertainment is promoted. Catholic Hollywood will need to play an integral part in the selection process and work with other entertainment experts beyond their sphere. This will be a great challenge to Catholic Hollywood [Catholic entertainment professionals who are established and accomplished as artists and executives ("Hollywood Insiders")] so that the Catholic community can realize their potential.
Catholic Hollywood will need to temporarily let go of promoting their own noble missions and embrace a more universal mission that collaborates at a certain point in time to determine which entertainment media deserves the unified attention of the Catholic community. For the logo to carry the power of persuasion, it must reflect a unified, collaborative, and representative selection process that creates widespread ownership among the Catholic community. A continued absence of a quality standard, universally recognized within “Catholic Hollywood” and within the Catholic market, will quickly turn any potential Catholic market influence cynical, confused, and cold.
Catholic Hollywood will need to let go of the idea of “creating a separate Catholic Hollywood” and the expectation that the Catholic community should support their product just because it is produced by Catholics. This approach will not necessarily be the answer to creating a new and sustained ethos in entertainment. The Catholic community is made up of people who are hungry for quality entertainment and are confused where to find it. Many are becoming increasing frustrated with wasting their time and money on, not only debase entertainment, but also "clean entertainment" that are poor in quality. The Catholic community, including its entertainment professionals, must consider the idea that secular Hollywood, which includes Catholic Hollywood, is a gift that must be embraced rather than fought against. Secular Hollywood is a master at what it does and "Hollywood" would not have its global significance today if not for what it has accomplished. The key to creating a new ethos in entertainment will be how Catholic Hollywood and the Catholic community at large inter-relates with secular Hollywood.
Challenge #3: Catholic Community at Large - "Hollywood is not Evil"
If the Catholic Community at large (hierarchy, priests, lay) is to have a hand in helping to create a new ethos in entertainment, it must contribute to a non-judgmental, transformative and healing environment as it relates with the entertainment industry. "Hollywood is doomed" or "Hollywood is evil" or "artists are freaks" attitudes have no place in a true spirit of Christ. These attitudes fight against the gift of creativity and send a message that Christ's redemptive power of healing and forgiveness is impotent, and only serves to tear down and divide. The entertainment industry is made up of people, many who are Catholic, some practicing and some not. Many of these professionals are artist, who sacrifice the comforts of a stable and predictable life, to make use of their God given talent for the service of humanity. Many artists, of which a good number arise from the Catholic community, are repelled from the Church because of judgmental attitudes they experience. Consequently and ironically, these artist leave the Church so they can create.
The great challenge to the Catholic Community at large is to support, guide, pray for, honor, and especially respect the fact that artists, by their very nature, must be trusted and given allowance to operate "outside the box." The creative environment is not conducive to boundaries drawn around it by those outside the creative process.
Challenge #4: Secular Entertainment Community Needs to Trust Working with the Church
In general, the entertainment industry provides what the audience desires based on revenues for the sake of its survival. Unfortunately, consumers, particularly in Western culture, are attracted (even addicted) to a toxic entertainment environment (e.g., gratuitous violence, promiscuity, egoism, blind prejudice, and greed). But like all addictions, toxic media has no sustainable connection with the dignity of the human person. The entertainment industry is finding it increasingly difficult to sustain a loyal market because consumers are always looking to competing media outlets for instant gratification. Innate in every human person is the desire for that which is true, good, and beautiful. Even if they desire and choose what is bad for them, it is because something in that bad choice is a good they desire, though not ordered to the ultimate good of their human development.
The great challenge to secular "Hollywood" is to embrace a trusting approach with what the Catholic Church has to offer with regard to your work. Naturally the Catholic Church would love for all people to become Christian, but she (Catholic Church) reaches out to you with the intention not to bring judgment, rather to dialogue and help serve the entertainment community in fostering something most people want - namely, quality entertainment rooted in truth, beauty, and goodness. This type of entertainment New Ethos believes will be good business for Hollywood. The Catholic Church has a rich tradition to offer in working with the entertainment community for a "new ethos" in entertainment, rooted in a free culture where people are awakened to their true human dignity and the unlimited horizons it brings.
The New Ethos Advantage: An Ever New Perspective on Entertainment
"Hollywood is a gift from God though with limitations – It can touch the heart but cannot fill it. Today, there can be a tendency of entertainment media actually working in the reverse – “emptying hearts.” New Ethos can help Hollywood to realize its full God given potential of not only touching hearts but connecting it to that which will fill it. And it is in this realization that entertainment media consumers will not be able to get enough."
- Fr. Don Woznicki
DIAGNOSIS of the Current Entertainment Environment: Generally Toxic
“Anything below God that the soul desires is less than its true goal.”
– Hugh of St. Victor
- Current and prevalent ethos of society and culture tends to a way of relating to the world that is concerned excessively with sensual pleasure (e.g., money, control, fame, power, or even in human relationships).
- The problem is that such primary concerns seek fulfillment in that which terminates in the created world – wealth is unstable – fame is futile – success is insecure – and humans are mortal.
- A distorted importance is given to finite goods, giving more weight to them that they can bear.
“To aim lower than God is the first cause of all disorder”
- Jacque Maritian
PROGNOSIS of the Current Entertainment Environment: Spiritual Disease
“As the body without food loses its strength, beauty, and health,
so the soul without knowledge of truth becomes darkened and infirm,
deformed and unstable in all things. It needs to be nourished.”
– St. Bonaventure
“If man remains in the world of their sense needs and of their sentimental
egos, in vain do they tell their stories to one another, they do not
understand each other, each one of them infinitely alone, even
though work or sense pleasures bind them together.”
- Flannery O’Connor
REMEDY - What the Church Through New Ethos has to Offer Entertainment:
1. A perspective that provides a natural & healthy link with the audience: Awakens us to divine goodness.
- It breathes soul into art and provides a visible link with the invisible. It is the soul of the human person with its destiny of happiness.
- It helps to find concrete expressions of the human soul yearning for the infinite. These expressions represent ever new hopes, new fears to overcome, and other things of the deepest concern to the life and soul of humankind.
- It provides transcendental value through truth, beauty, and goodness that helps souls to communicate. We are really only united by the spirit, whose light brings us together.
2. A perspective that ensures freedom, rather than restrict it.
“The chief difference between the (filmmaker) with
faith and one who is merely a naturalist is that the
man of faith lives in a larger universe (includes sin).”
- Flannery O’Connor
“Rather than put parameters around the artist as
they venture to create, New Ethos seeks to walk
with the artist outside the box as they create.”
-Fr. Don Woznicki
- Offers a perspective that reaches beyond the limitations of the intellect, beyond any mere theory that a writer (artists) may entertain, and suggest an image of ultimate reality that can be glimpsed at in some aspect of the human situation.
- Frees one to see – to observe – to have respect for “mystery” from which comes the confidence to penetrate the surface of reality and to find what holds it all together.
- Limits of Dogma: There is no reason fixed dogma should fix anything the writer sees in the world. Dogma is an instrument for penetrating reality (guards and respects mystery). ART has no right against God (its source).
- If art produces objects which men cannot use without sinning (leading to disordered behaviors), then the artist has crossed the line of irresponsibility.
- Art that can be put to good or bad use is permissible, but if its used mostly for bad, then it warrants responsible restrictions.
“Art is always the result of some constraint. To
hold that it rises higher the freer it is, is to hold
that what keeps the kite from climbing is the
string to which it is attached.”
– Andre Gide
3. A perspective to help make artists better: Truer to their nature rooted in judgment & vision; nature & grace; reason & imagination.
“An artist is an observer, first, last, and always,
but cannot be an adequate observer unless free
from the uncertainty about what he/she sees.”
- Flannery O’Connor
- It helps them bring a "prophetic vision" and be a realist in distances that depend on the imaginative, rather than a moral faculty.
- It helps them to see with “two eyes,” one his/her own view of reality, and the other, the divinely revealed. This isn’t to say that the artist should decide what would be good for people of faith and deliver, rather to be true to his/her vision while at the same time realizing that vision is limited and needs the “eyes of the Church” to help “fine tune” and focus on the divinely revealed realities.
“Like Jacob (in Sacred Scriptures), [the artist]
confronts what stands in his path and wonders
if he will come out of the struggle at all.”
– Flannery O’Connor
4. A perspective that challenges both the artist in their responsibility for the good of the audience, and the audience for the good of art.
“Does not require an educated mind, rather the kind
of mind that is willing to have its sense of mystery
deepened by contact with reality, and its sense of
reality deepened by contact with mystery.”
– Flannery O’Connor
For the sake of the artist and audience, New Ethos brings a rich tradition of theo-philosophical WISDOM of the Catholic Church to combine the virtues of “prudence” and “art” into an equation of judging what is true, good, and beautiful in entertainment media.
A PRUDENT man judges a work of art as it concerns morality (defends the good of man – superior to ART in relation to man), but has no right to judge it as a work of art.
ART is superior metaphysically to PRUDENCE in that it defends the good of beauty.
New Ethos considers that “what is vision and truth” to the artist can very possibly be temptation and sin to the audience.
New Ethos brings a WISDOM which alone can perfectly reconcile ART and PRUDENCE, protecting the good of the audience, and the demands of the artist in his/her attention to Order – Proportion – Radiance.
“Religious insight is the grasp of this truth - that order of the world,
[that is] the depth of reality of the world, the value of the world in
its whole and in its parts, the beauty of the world, the zest of life,
the peace of life, and the mastery of evil, are all bound together.”
–Alfred North Whitehead, Philosopher
The audience is not to be viewed as a democratic influence, because what if a majority in the audience were unformed in the principle elements of what makes art true, good, and beautiful? The audience must be challenged in its shallow demands for “positive art” (moralizing art) that possibly comes about from a weak faith.
“May your art help to affirm that true beauty which, as
a glimmer of the Spirit of God, will transfigure matter,
opening the human soul to the sense of the eternal”
- Pope John Paul II (Letter to Artists – 16)