Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Hollywood Effect

by Richard Crews
Throughout the world the most important factor influencing the dreams people hold for their children is what I call "The Hollywood Effect."

In the town center of an impoverished village in Brazil or Somalia--on a dirty street corner of a crowded city in Bangladesh or China--on a worn couch in a small, cold apartment in Saudi Arabia or Mexico--a group of hungry, tired people gather to watch a 10-inch, grainy, black-and-white TV set hooked up to a generator and a dish antenna. And for two hours of an evening, what do they watch? They watch reruns of "I Love Lucy" episodes; they watch slapstick and romantic comedies interlaced with ads for toothpaste and Viagra; they watch an average American Joe or Jane driving "the family car," arguing with a cop (with no question ever raised of their being beaten or having to pay a bribe), or wheeling a cart down a supermarket aisle lined with thousands of trinkets, toys, tools, and tidbits (including an endless array of fresh produce) all, clearly, easily within their financial reach.

There is a lot wrong with this country: we incarcerate a higher proportion of our citizens than any other country on Earth; our hysterical 24/7 media do not differentiate between tragedy and entertainment, between loose opinion and substantiated information, between politics and statesmanship; our government is gridlocked by private ambition and greed: it cannot "solve" a ridiculous tax system, an expensive and inefficient health-care system, decaying and obsolete infrastructure, a mountainous national debt, etc.

But we inadvertently export a mouthwatering lifestyle--images that people around the world use to form dreams for their children--"the Hollywood Effect."