Saturday, January 17, 2009
Classic Film - Perception Versus Reality
This morning's post will be a bit different and reflective. I hope I can get across what I want to say adequately enough, though as usual with my deeper reflections, I am trying to give substance to a shade.
Most people who know me personally, or who have followed this blog for a while, know that I love old classic films from 1930 to 1955. The black and white ones, and especially film noir. I love the shadows and the fog, the old Packards, the trench coats and fedora hats. When watching them, I almost always feel like I was born in the wrong time. Instead of sitting before a computer, I should be sitting behind an old manual typewriter in a spartan room containing only a desk, a chair, a coatrack with a shoulder holster hanging from it, and an old steam radiator providing heat. I am indeed a throwback.
I very, very rarely watch anything made in recent years. It doesn't interest me for a variety of reasons. I haven't watched a network television program for probably 20 years. On the surface, the main reason is probably because so much modern film and television is filled with vulgarity and trash. Those classic old films could have their share of evil characters (who usually got their comeuppance), but profanity, nudity and obscenity wasn't necessary to get the point across. And again, black and white instead of color. If done in color, those films would not have their same mystique and feel, as Ted Turner found out when he foolishly tried to colorize them. He still deserves a term at Alcatraz for such lese majesty.
I believe that the story and dialogue in those old films is far better than what we have now. Yes, we have computers and lots of flashy special effects, but then, the emphasis was on dialogue -- often subtle -- and a healthy dose of mother wit. We don't have subtle wit these days. You get bludgeoned.
Okay. Are you with me so far? Good. All of that was an introduction to the main point of this post.
Sin and Human Nature
That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
I can't tell you how many times I have heard various generations say, "It was better in my day!" My grandparents and parents decried how awful the current generation was to them, declaring that "those kind of things didn't go on back then." In my generation, I've said the same things when horrified over the latest outrage on television or film. There is an element of truth to it, but only an element.
In reality, everything that we get horrified over today went on back then as well. It's just that it went on behind closed doors or seamy back alleys and not out in everyone's face. There was -- in general -- a societal consensus that some things were not fit for polite company, and yes, wrong. Evil went on, but the societal standard (hypocritical or not) was that evil and immoral things were indeed evil and immoral. They weren't celebrated and advocated, at least outside of the glitterati.
If you go back to films before the Production Code of 1930 went into effect, you might be shocked at some of them. That is why many of those old films don't contain the hallmarks of most films today -- gratuitous violence, nudity and bad language. After the Code finally came to an end in the late 1950s and early 1960s, those elements began resurfacing and increasing in intensity -- a reflection of our society as it also began to decay.
Drug abuse has been around for eons, including opium. Alcoholism has been around since alcohol has been around. Homosexuality was around way before Harvey Milk and San Francisco swished their way to notoriety (come to think of it, a little town called Sodom was vaporized because of it a few thousand years ago). Renowned 1930s musician Cole Porter did his share of cruising for other men decades before "Queer Eye" went on the air. In fact, the classic movie about him starring Cary Grant sanitized all of that stuff out.
Speaking of Porter, remember the 1930 song "Love for Sale?" It was banned from radio airplay due to its subject matter, which was prostitution. Pick your sin. Adultery, murder, robbery, rape, larceny, bestiality, blackmail, lying, cheating, stealing, fornicating, blasphemy -- all of it -- have been going on since a certain little incident in the Garden of Eden. And it will continue going on until the Lord returns.
The lesson of my long reflection is that we shouldn't lose our heads to false romanticism. Don't get me wrong -- I still love the classic film era and wish we could go back to the Production Code standards. I don't need to see every gross detail of evil to know that a character is evil. You still won't find me watching many new films. But outside of the movie house, life was still life and sin was still sin. People still had a fallen nature and they still needed a Savior.
Just like we do today.