On pages 208-209 of Nixonland, Rick Perlstein quotes the 1953 memoir of screenwriter Ben Hecht, who was describing Hollywood standards:
“Two generations of Americans have been informed nightly that a woman who betrayed her husband (or a husband his wife) could never find happiness; that sex was no fun without a mother-in-law and a rubber plant around; that women who fornicated just for pleasure ended up as harlots or washerwomen; that any man who was sexually active in his youth later lost the one girl he truly loved; that a man who indulged in sharp practices to get ahead in the world ended in poverty and with even his own children turning on him; that any man who broke the law, man’s or God’s, must always die, or go to jail, or become a monk, or restore the money he stole before wandering off into the desert; that anyone who didn’t believe in God (and said so out loud) was set right by seeing either an angel or witnessing some feat of levitation by one of the characters; that an honest heart must always recover from a train wreck or a score of bullets and win the girl it loved; that the most potent and brilliant of villains are powerless before little children, parish priests or young virgins with big boobies; that injustice could cause a heap of trouble but it must always slink out of town in Reel Nine; that there are no problems of labor, politics, domestic life or sexual abnormality but can be solved happily by a simple Christian phrase or a fine American motto.”
Perlstein goes on to contrast these standards with the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde, which glorified outlaws while portraying the establishment as corrupt and morally bankrupt.
As I read Hecht’s description of the older standards, however, I thought, “Man, I actually believe some of those things.” Maybe it’s because of all the Little House on the Prairie and Touched by an Angel that I watch. That makes me wonder if what I believe is actually true in real life, or is rather somebody’s value system that he or she is trying to propagate.
There is a significant part of me that likes to be inspired and uplifted, and so I tend to prefer the sorts of movies that Hecht talks about over movies like Bonnie and Clyde. I don’t like movies that are too corny and cheesy, mind you, but movies that have values while still being believable, on some level. Of course, what is believable to me may be corny and cheesy to someone else.