Monday, May 14, 2007

Political Correctness

Hope all the mothers out there had a nice Mother’s Day. Mine was wonderful. My son called from work and my daughter took me out for a movie and dinner.

We went to the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse. That is absolutely my favorite movie theatre. For those of you not in Austin, the Alamo Drafthouses have stadium seating, tons of leg room, and serve everything from popcorn to salads to beer to sandwiches. We went to their special Mother’s Day Dinner and Movie.

Every so often, they do these kinds of shows. It might be a new show, like Harry Potter where they plan the meal to fit the movie. For Harry Potter, they served Butter Beer, etc. They either serve things the characters in the movie are eating or serve food that fits the theme.

For Mother’s Day, we watched the movie It Happened One Night with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. Since the two characters are traveling cross country, the head chef at the Alamo served a five-course meal, starting with Marlin in Mojo with MaLanga Fritas, then chilled carrot soup, then Boovashenkel, then peppercorn seared NY Strip, and ending with Almond Sponge Cake Topped with Citrus Cream Frosting and Brandied Strawberries. Each course came with a glass of wine chosen to compliment the dish.

I drank the first glass of wine, then just tasted the others. If we’d finished off all five, we would have been under the table.

The movie was good. I hadn’t seen it before. It’s a good lesson in how times change. This would be true whether you were watching a movie or reading a book written in that time. Although I’m not sure it would be as true if you were reading a book written in today’s time, but set in a different period. Today, we try to be so politically correct in both books and movies that we’re not always true to that past time.

There were places where Clark Gable would say things to Claudette Colbert, like referring to her as a little girl unable to make her own decisions, that would have my daughter laughing. You couldn’t really write a book set in today’s time period (and some writers would hesitate to even write a book set in the 30s) where men were portrayed as considering women rather witless. On the other hand, this movie had no cursing, no sex scenes, and was one you could take the entire family to. Very different from movies today. Not just movies, either. Look at the gore, violence and sex on TV. Consider the lyrics of music, both profane and disgusting. Don’t look, please, at the videos. Even books are becoming more gory and graphic.

A lot of it is a reflection of our time, of how things change over the years. Some of it is a testament to the deterioration of society’s commitment to morals and respect for all people. Each of us has to draw the line both in our writing lives and our private lives.

I do watch the CSI shows, although I prefer the shows like Heroes or Boston Legal. I do read suspense, as well as cozies and literary. I listen to pop music and the oldies, but not rap. I don’t watch music videos. I watch the news and the Sunday Morning News show is my favorite news magazine. But I’m tired of the entertainment fluff taking over the “news” programs. I do use some curse words in my writing, when it feels appropriate to the character, although I still hesitate and usually delete harder curse words.

I would rather censor myself than have someone else do it. But we do each have to use our own judgment when it comes to what we allow into our heads. I choose not to watch videos where women are degraded and treated as nothing more than sex objects. I’m tired of seeing bodies cut open and bullets ricocheting through tissue and muscle. I’m tired of police or legal shows where the main lesson learned is to never talk to the police except to say, “I want my lawyer,” and to never trust a police officer or lawyer because apparently they all lie.

Our children are exposed to this kind of trash at an earlier and earlier age, both in videos and books. What kind of damage is it doing to their core beliefs?

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