The feminists leading their way in the Seventies would've grown up in the Forties and Fifties -- right smack in the middle of Hollywood's ever-growing movie list and also when TV was becoming popular. By 1955, half of American homes possessed a TV.
That's a pretty powerful influence.
To compound things, this Forties/Fifties generation was raised by America's first film-going generation. In the 1920s, most Americans went to movie theaters on a weekly basis, with all the Hollywood influence and cultural impact this implies.
(Just as a quick example: The heavy makeup, shorter skirts, and suggestive dance moves popular in the films had an immediate impact on the fashion and dancing of the average girl in the 1920s. The movies also influenced women toward smoking, drinking, and public displays of affection, acts that were unacceptable before.)
Because women were portrayed so badly in film and TV -- and because men were also portrayed negatively when interacting with women -- it seems that decades of showing abusive men and exploited women as good or normal might have influenced general society, no?
Abuse & Exploitation: Hollywood's Golden Ideal
For example, it was common in older movies for a woman to become hysterical (often with good reason, but still exaggerated compared to how normal women behave in the same circumstance). At that point, her husband or boyfriend would give her a ringing slap in the face. This was portrayed as good or necessary. (This kind of scene was no longer acceptable by around the Seventies.)
Now, in real life, how many times do you see women literally becoming hysterical? Rarely, right? Yet this was common in the movies. What further confused and disturbed me as a little girl was how, logically speaking, the woman seemed to have good reason for her hysteria: She felt genuinely frightened or threatened, sometimes she was being lied to and manipulated by the very guy who hit her for her own supposed good, and so on.
Even worse, the slapper was often portrayed as a good guy. So you had the "good" guy slapping a woman who was rightly upset.
In another old black 'n' white film (lauded as "progressive" for its predominantly black cast), a woman slouches on the sidewalk pining for her rogue boyfriend to take her back. Just then, he walks by with his new girl on his arm. When the lovelorn woman throws herself at his feet and hangs onto his arm, he smacks her back down onto the pavement. The girl on his arm just sniffs and they continue on with their stroll. The pining woman continues to sing of her grief over the scumbag's rejection.
Now, I ask you: Is the above scenario normal?
Yes, I know there are dysfunctional people like this. But I'm asking if it's normal.
After all, would a normal woman still want a man who just whammed her to the pavement? (And do normal woman yearn for cold-hearted abusive men who cheat on them?) And from the replacement girl's side of things, wouldn't you be unnerved if your man smacked down his distraught pitiful ex right in front of you? Wouldn't that imply something disturbing about his character?
Also, again, the women's distress was justified. All she wanted was for him to marry her, a very decent and wholesome desire. She was willing to give him everything in return, yet he rejected her. And when she showed rightful distress over this, he attacked her as if she was a disgusting bug. And rather than realizing that he was a violent miscreant whom she was better off without, she continued to warble piteously about his rejection.
The messaging there is pretty awful, yet we are supposed to accept it as normal.
Ben Shapiro has often explained Hollywood's methodology:
Hollywood creates a likeable or sympathetic character, then makes that likeable sympathetic character do something the viewer would normally find repugnant.
And that is how Hollywood changes society's values.
This is the problem in a nutshell.
Mr. Wrong becomes Mr. Right
Another confusing scenario that occurred often in the old reels was how the female lead would be pursued by the ideal guy: good-looking, responsible, steady, and treats her respectfully. However, there was also a cad in the film who was handsome but without any other redeeming qualities. Yet the female lead would always fall for the cad and reject the attractive decent guy who very much wants her and wants to marry her!
I remember finding this very disconcerting as a child.
It was so blatantly disturbing and irrational that Gloria Steinem capitalized on this exact experience in her books. Tapping into this experience garnered her a following of women who remembered being disconcerted girls watching the kind of roguish man she should avoid being portrayed as the hero while the heroine makes a terrible life choice by choosing him over the truly good guy -- and this was portrayed as a happy ending.
And again, Hollywood was not portraying normal life. Traditionally, girls were brought up to AVOID this exact scenario. Since the 1700s, literature (both fiction and non) and caring relatives warned girls against falling for cads. The stable good guy in pursuit of marriage was the desirable one.
But not in Hollywood.
Both the men and women in Hollywood tended to find marriage suffocating. They found exciting and physically attractive people far more alluring than good-looking people of good character. The Hollywood stars and staff valued negative emotional drama over fulfilling life dramas, such as weddings, childbirth, family dinners and holiday gatherings, etc.
And they brought this warped attitude into their art, which they then projected onto the entire world.
As a teenager going into the 1990s, reading Gloria Steinem's description of this experience suddenly brought back forgotten memories of these films and the confused, disconcerted little girl I was while watching them.
All the more so, for women who'd grown up in the Forties and Fifties, for whom these types of films were the only fare.
For example, I was a huge fan of the Marx Brothers movies. I loved them as a child and watched them repeatedly. At the same time, it bothered me how Groucho Marx was always stringing along that older wealthy lady for her money. It was portrayed as amusing and acceptable to reject a woman merely because of her looks (even though Groucho Marx was extremely unattractive himself) and to use her just for her money and connections.
This reflects the real Hollywood moguls until today. In the latest present-day scandal, for example, you saw the repulsive-looking mogul exploiting beautiful young women who would otherwise never come near him if he hadn't been wealthy and influential.
Hollywood bigwigs have often been ugly immature creepy men who viewed women in a disturbing manner. And that's also what they portrayed in their movies.
Hitchcock, for example, described actors of either gender as "cattle" and was just plain gross with women off-set.
Hollywood screenwriters and producers were always pointing the cameras at themselves, so to speak, justifying their own immoral behavior and deplorable values.
In another scene, Groucho Marx starts mauling the cabin maid whose come to arrange the linens in his ship cabin. She looks obviously unhappy about it, but he doesn't give a hoot. I remember feeling shocked that she seemed totally resigned to his gaggle-eyed, grinning groping. She didn't seem surprised or horrified and did nothing to defend herself, didn't try to move out of the way, leave, push his hand, slap him, complain, delicately fend him off, nothing. She didn't even freeze up; it was all business as usual.
Again, the scripted behavior did not reflect a real-life response.
Note: I'm not saying that her response would never have happened, I'm saying that it wasn't a normal response to a man mauling a woman as she's carrying out her job. Many women would be shocked and freeze up, or some other kind of traumatic reaction.
Furthermore, she was his subordinate. There was an implication that as the maid, she had no power and that putting up with his mauling was part of her job.
And it was really creepy that he was so enthusiastically enjoying himself when she so obviously was not.
Yet the film portrayed it as funny. We were supposed to laugh at this and think it was cute, like an endearing little boy who caught with his pudgy little hand in the cookie jar.
Mauling a helpless maid isn't endearing or funny -- unless you are a degenerate.
But again, as the audience, you liked the Marx Brothers. Everyone did! Yet they committed immoral acts as part of the fun. And that's exactly what breaks down the viewer's inner defenses.
Children's movies didn't escape this either. I remember in Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang looking on with horror as a cackling man poured wine down the front of a protesting woman's low-cut dress. It seemed scary to the little girl I was because I wouldn't want someone doing that to me. Yet again, this was portrayed as comic and not as vulgar or appalling.
In the The Little Princess (1939), Shirley Temple recites this whole sonnet (completely unrelated to the plot) about a guy smooching a girl who doesn't want it at all, but it's presented as funny and acceptable. I also found that very disturbing as a child. For girls, it's scary to think that someone can just grab you or force himself on you in some way.
So when you have an entire generation (or more) of boys growing up watching this behavior (which was traditionally considered appalling) as merely funny and cute (something a woman will definitely tolerate), how does than affect males and their own behavior toward women?
Seriously. If you read earlier memoirs and the like, grabbing at women just wasn't considered appropriate. (It was more something that drunks did, and drinking & drunken behavior also used to be looked down on.) Novels and moral literature abounded with cautions to girls about such men and men weren't supposed to behave improperly around women.
(Remember how men used to watch their language around women, remove their hats, and say "Ma'am"?)
Of course, abuses and exploitation occurred in society prior to Hollywood.
No one can deny that.
My point is that in a society founded on the principles expressed in Mishlei/Proverbs (as America once was), all the above was not acceptable and considered very inappropriate until Hollywood came along and said that it's actually not bad at all; it's not only acceptable but it's even funny and something all the cool guys do.
Perfect Woman, Perfect Target?
And again, her facial expression (and did the speed with which she passed by them) showed that the attention was completely unwanted.
So you have the likable attractive hero suddenly harassing an innocent young woman who's obviously very unhappy with his treatment. It also indicates that it doesn't matter whether the woman intensely dislikes such treatment. It's okay anyway! Her feelings are totally irrelevant.
This kind of portrayal stamps approval on such behavior.
Another popular classic movie from 1954 had the hero leering at a dancer who lived in an apartment across the street from him and had no idea she was being spied on by the creep.
And in one of the first scenes, his girlfriend played by a particularly beautiful actress came to visit. She had everything: beauty, wealth, good manners, and high social standing. Yet she sat there knitting while he treated her with utter disdain. At one point, she showed disappointment about being kept on his string instead of him committing by marrying her.
He waved his hand at her and told her, "Aw, shut up." (This would've been considered appalling manners in the 1950s.) And in response, she just pouted, but didn't leave or even get huffy with him. Instead, she kept on sewing. (Message: Even if you have nothing to offer, you can treat super desirable women like flies, and they'll totally accept it.)
Now at this point in America, it was completely acceptable and even laudable to marry your serious girlfriend. The vast majority of American men in the 1950s married between the ages of 22-23.
And this was not just considered a good thing, it was considered the manly thing to do.
Getting married demonstrated highly regarded traits like responsibility, maturity, and the ability to shoulder weighty duties like holding down a job and making enough money to support a family. Remaining faithful was also expected and respected.
But to the men of Hollywood, marriage was like a prison. Populated by men who valued immorality and considered women playthings, their leading men had to be crass creepy cads because that's what they were too.
The other problem with this scenario was treating an extremely desirable woman like dirt. This is a common theme in older movies. The female stars of Hollywood consisted of some of the most beautiful women in the world. Most men of that time would be thrilled if such a woman wanted them and would marry them in a second.
Yet in the movies, the leading men repeatedly treated these most desirable women with appalling disdain.
Again, this is not how normal men instinctively relate to women who are beautiful, rich, refined socialites. But in Hollywood, this was considered appropriate and normal behavior because the men running Hollywood were (and continue to be) abnormal jerks.
Even when the script implied that the young beauty was breaking all social mores by giving him whatever he wanted, he still treated her like dirt. Again, this was confusing as a youngster because it seemed like these men were unpleasable. Even when she gave him everything he wanted, he still didn't like her. Yet he was the good guy?!
And as always, such behavior was portrayed as amusing and totally acceptable.
They were sort of like the Hollywood women today who complain of harassment, but did and do nothing about the child abuse rampant in Hollywood, and continue to star in roles that demean women.
Unfaithful to their own husbands and cheating with married men and producing a baby from that adulterous union, neglecting or abusing their own children, and in general behaving like horrible narcissists, the beautiful stars known as "America's sweethearts" bolstered Hollywood's lack of morals.
Even in their old age, they showed no remorse. You can find interviews with these elderly stars in which they applaud today's lack of morality, complaining that "back in those days," they needed to hide their infidelities so as not to harm their popularity. One former star said the reason she kept getting divorced and married was because in "those days," it wasn't acceptable to live with a man, so you had to marry him.
They were often awful mothers too.
So again, you had women who held no respect for real women's roles (like that of a faithful wife or nurturing mother) acting out her own decrepit value system. And rather than striving for a truly fulfilling role in real life, like becoming a doctor or a teacher, these actresses played out their real selves backstage, by using men and being used by them.
The Warping Twenties
Let's take a 1928 Laurel 'n' Hardy film. It starts off with an escaped criminal followed in hot pursuit by a comically furious policeman.
So immediately, the film encourages you to sympathize with the law-breaking criminal against the law-upholding cop. Then something heavy falls on the cop, and it's supposed to be funny and good, because the cop (who is behaving with courage and justice) gets punished and the criminal gets away.
Later, Laurel 'n' Hardy end up with hermit crabs up their trousers. Most of the movie consists of this joke, that these grown men are getting "nipped" on their rump specifically by the crabs, and keep thinking the other man is the one who's pinching him there.
Not only is the humor preschoolish, but it portrays bizarre assumptions and behavior. What grown man would "nip" another grown man in normal society? Can you imagine the men of Little House on the Prairie or Caddie Woodlawn behaving in such a manner -- even as a joke?
Who would think up this kind of scenario? (Hint: A creepy perv.)
Then Laurel 'n' Hardy needed to adjust their pants in the alley way, and when they come out together zipping up their pants, they accidentally do so in front of shocked passers-by.
This is vulgar however you look at it. If you're an innocent, you'll see it as, "Goodness, two men were caught looking like they'd been relieving themselves in a public alleyway!" But if you've grown up in modern American society, you'll see that the implication of two men coming together out of an empty alley way while zipping up their pants as...?
You tell me what the script was hinting at.
My point is that even way back in the Twenties, Hollywood was already really gross and projecting their degeneracy and vulgarity and immaturity onto the silver screen.
And it used humor, which is the best way to break down defenses.
Because then they can claim they're only kidding. I mean, what's wrong with you? Can't you take a joke?
Or they can accuse of you of having the dirty mind. I mean, sheesh, is that what YOU really think when you see two men coming out of the alley way? Get your mind out of the gutter, you family-values hypocrite.
See what I mean?
Real Life or Reel Life?
Yet again, all the above were against social norms.
The "real life" Hollywood likes to portray is its own degenerate narcissistic meaningless life.
- Catcalling and harassing women was considered unacceptable in normal society, especially when the women's dress and behavior reflected ladylike propriety.
- Not wanting to marry (and especially not wanting to marry a highly desirable woman with every asset in the book) wasn't considered normal or desirable.
- Touching women inappropriately or forcing yourself on women was also not acceptable.
And this list goes on.
This doesn't mean that such things never happened--tragically, of course they did! But as long as such behaviors were frowned upon, they were limited.
Yet once Hollywood portrayed these behaviors as innocent, amusing, and even idealized, that portrayal affected the moviegoers and TV audience.
How could it not?
I remember as a teen that we spoke like the characters we watched on TV. Our slang, inflection, and attitude were all copied from our entertainment media. And we certainly absorbed their values, especially since outside of religious communities, the only values we ever encountered were the ones epitomized in our TV, movies, and magazines.
Is it too much of a stretch to imagine that a young man who has spent his life watching leading men and heroes harassing and disrespecting and even hitting women as comic relief or as a necessity or uncontrollable act might absorb this attitude?
And what about their effect on the girls and young women watching them?
Remember, these movies went on for decades.
Going to the movies was considered an innocent American pastime, like picnics and white picket fences. There was little social criticism of the content.
Sure, film and TV faced a censorship board, but they didn't censor everything and anyway, Hollywood considered it a badge of honor to do everything it could to circumvent these censors.
The Effect of Viewing Your Own Trauma Onscreen
That sounds pretty traumatic to me.
So I don't think it's a coincidence that many of the leading feminists and passionate proponents evolved from dysfunctional backgrounds:
- Gloria Steinem lost her mother at very young age and her father wasn't able to be the kind of parent Gloria needed
- Germaine Greer's mother likely suffered Aspergers, which drove Germaine from the home by age 18
- Betty Friedan's mother was an unhappy housewife who mourned her loss of career
- Simone de Beauvoir's high intelligence was complimented by her father as, "Simone thinks like a man!" -- implying that high intelligence cannot be a feminine trait.
- Several suffered from philandering fathers
- Many impassioned feminists suffered abuse from men when they were young girls
Other feminists don't seem to have grown up in a dysfunctional family, but their adult behavior is so dysfunctional, it makes you wonder.
For example, the extremely popular feminist Alice Walker reports positively on both her parents and her teachers, even as she grew up in impoverished segregation and a brother accidentally shot her in the eye with a BB gun. Yet she was an appallingly neglectful and insensitive mother to her own daughter. At one point, Alice even informed her daughter that she had "chosen" to love her (implying that her daughter wasn't innately loveable, but rather someone that Alice needed to force herself to love). This deeply hurt her daughter.
Just as bad, Alice Walker published a famous poem in which she compares her daughter's birth to other "calamities" in her life.
How would YOU feel if your celebrity mother described your existence in her life as a "calamity" AND announced this to the entire world?
When her daughter asked for an apology for the years of pain caused by Alice, Alice refused and insisted she was no longer interested in the job of mother.
There is something clearly wrong with a lot of these "womyn."
(If you missed it, this previous post explains why a woman who is supposedly pro-woman & fights for women's "rights" can still be so cruel to other women, including her own female child.)
And like I said, Gloria Steinem used the disturbing Hollywood portrayals to touch women and bring them to her side. But once she had innocent women in her grasp of pseudo-empathy, she offered destructive solutions framed in pretty pictures.
Sociopaths are shockingly skilled at feigning empathy (in the short-term; over the long-term they start to sound weird because they're just faking it). They know which buttons to press and how to play the victim.
(Remember, Nazism started and continued on the fuel of a victimhood mentality. This is the way fascist movements gain and keep momentum. Communism did the same.)
- Any chauvinistic attitudes or oppression that already existed in society was enthusiastically fanned by Hollywood and glorified as normal or desirable or funny.
- Rather than assuming that society was always rife with awful misogyny and that a man's natural inclination is to oppress women unless he has a feminist around to make him behave, it makes more sense to take a look at the role Hollywood played in glorifying the mistreatment of women.
- Hollywood embraced certain mores and behaviors generally considered immoral or unacceptable, and presented them as funny, acceptable, or even ideal.
- Hollywood productions were never innocent and clean. In the world of films and TV, there are no genuine "good ol' days" to return to.
Note: Radio, which both preceded and paralleled film, was also a problem, as was Vaudeville, on which the first films were based. Furthermore, while this post focused on American film and TV, the film/TV industry in other countries was similarly problematic.