October 1, 2006

The Age of Ugliness

Frederica Mathewes-Green writes about religion, films, and life. She recently took a granddaughter to an animated film, Open Season, and observes:
After I took Hannah home, I just felt sad. This is a movie about talking animals, so it can’t be aimed at kids much older than she is. But there wasn’t any element I could honestly say was enjoyable — nothing that sparked wonder. There was lots of skittering and slamming and noise, and the screen often filled up with images that were just plain ugly.

For example, early on the deer wants the bear to promise to be his friend. So he hocks up something slimy and spits it into his hand, then holds it out, dripping, for a shake.

Not much later the deer and bear are lost in the forest, and the bear needs a toilet. He asks the deer, “Well, what do you do?” The deer says, “I don’t know,” and releases a stream of turds.
It's not that Frederica wants spineless goody-twoshoes stuff for children. It's that the world that's mass-produced for them is so ugly:
I inherited a picture book that had belonged to a great-great-great aunt, and inside the covers she’d drawn pictures of beautiful women. I guess girls have always done that, but in her case it was 1870, and the women are wearing ballgowns adorned with tiers of lace, with petticoats and pantaloons underneath. In the 1960’s, I drew women wearing a sheath dress and a mink stole, with hair in a Grace Kelly chignon. Do little girls now draw smirking women with exposed navels and heavy eye makeup? Has “edgy” become the new “beautiful”?

The usual retort is, “So just don’t watch these movies” or “Just don’t buy those dolls.” But you don’t have to buy this stuff; it leaks under the door. American entertainment culture has reached into every corner of the world, and if it’s not in your home, it’s in the home of the kid who sits next to yours in school. If you still don’t think snot is particularly funny, and don’t think it’s a good idea to luxuriate in revenge fantasies, you’re in the minority. This ugly, mean-spirited stuff is mingled with the very air we breathe.

So when I’m leaving the mall with Hannah I’m behind two middle-aged women who are laughing and loudly using the F-word. We pass a guy coming in wearing a t-shirt with an obscene message. Outside, there are obese teenage girls with too much pasty flesh spilling out of too-small clothes, trying to look haughty.

Hannah is a quiet, modest, self-possessed little girl, and unlikely to ever find such things appealing. But I can’t help feeling sorrow that she’s growing up in such an ugly age.
Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin writes about Charlotte Church, who as a teenager was a sweet, talented singer, and coming of age has gone Britney:
The 20-year-old entertainer has rebelled against the wholesome image that brought her fame, fortune and worldwide respect as a rare role model for young girls. She has traded in "Pie Jesu" for "Crazy Chick" — a lousy pop anthem even Ashlee Simpson wouldn't be caught performing. Charlotte's gone from pure-hearted to pure crap. These days, she drinks, she smokes, she curses, she fights, she parties, and she tries very, very hard to shock and offend — like a trashier Lindsay Lohan, only with better pipes.

Charlotte has a new talk show in England, where she plays a profanity-spewing hostess who is part Rosie O'Donnell, part Keith Olbermann (she has bashed President Bush as "clueless" and a "twat") and completely unhinged. The pilot episode featured Charlotte calling Pope Benedict XVI a Nazi, dressing as a nun and pretending to hallucinate while eating communion wafers imprinted with smiley faces (symbolizing the drug Ecstasy). The Catholic News Service reported last month that the pilot also showed Church smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary to reveal a can of fortified wine. To top off her anti-Catholic snit, she stuck chewing gum on a statue of the child Jesus.

The sketch was scrapped from the show's debut, but in the most recent episode aired last week, Church strapped herself to a cross, Madonna-wannabe-style. As one viewer complained in a message quoted by the Daily Mail: "This woman may have had the voice of an angel in the past but now she has the foul mouth of a sewer rat."
It's sad. Decent people have to live in opposition to the culture, which is befouled.

Someone once responded to a comment of mine on another blog words to the effect that conservatives who are determined to defend America are deeply hostile to much of its present-day culture. A paradox, perhaps. But defense means not only resisting attackers, but rot from within.

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