5 Huge Real-World Problems Hollywood Completely Ignores
Movies cover everything: the ups and downs of romance, WWII, the daily struggles of a SpongeBob, the heartbreak of cancer, WWII, humanity's far-flung future, what would happen if a monkey learned to break dance, WWII, stoic hitmen learning to love, gritty cowboys exacting vengeance, and of course, WWII. It seems like there's nothing Hollywood won't cover, but there are a few huge blind spots in our pop culture. For example ...
There Are Relatively Few Movies About The Korean War
America has waged war with various nations for all but 21 of the years since its official founding in 1776. So we can forgive Hollywood for forgetting about a few of the smaller wars. Scripts about the Mason County War don't have to make it to Spielberg's desk. But American war fatigue doesn't explain why we haven't seen a notable movie about the Korean War since 1970. It was a world-shaping event that constantly gets glossed over in cinema. Most people would be hard-pressed to name any Korean War movie that isn't M*A*S*H. Over the course of the war, the U.S. bombed the holy spirit out of North Korea, wiping out 20 freaking percent of its population with airstrikes, sparking a grudge that North Korea holds to this day. How is this never referenced in film?
We have more superhero war movies this century than ones for this.
In the past, the problem was timing. The Korean War came on the heels of the WWII, and people were tired of war. Movie studios would have had a hard time selling movies about a new war to people who had only been home from the last one for five years. Most of the films made about the war were on the exploitation side. Then, before the dust could settle in Korea, America Tarzan-swung balls-first into the even bloodier Vietnam War.
But today there is a much different problem: China, which has become a huge market for the film industry. And the Chinese government has made it clear that they want more positive representation in movies if Hollywood wants their money. American studios want to avoid portraying China as bad guys to make sure their films play globally. The issue with making a Korean War flick is that China fought alongside North Korea, and still has a somewhat supportive relationship with them. Studios don't want to risk losing the money they'd get from Chinese ticket sales of Transformers 9: Shia's Revenge.
Where Are The Movies About America's Opioid Crisis?
The opioid addiction epidemic in the U.S. is the single worst drug crisis in the nation's history. It kills more people than guns and car crashes combined, more than AIDS did at its peak, and it's worsening by the year. It is a shocking and ongoing issue, yet its pop culture presence is almost nonexistent.
We have dozens of movies about cocaine, like Scarface and Blow. Crack showed up all the time in '90s "hood" movies like Clockers and Menace II Society. Tons of pot movies will get made every year until people stop loving pot, which is due to happen any never now. But the opioid section is bare. Even heroin movies are rarer than other drug flicks. You have Trainspotting, Requiem For A Dream, and Pulp Fiction, and those are all decades old. There's nothing about Oxycontin or fentanyl, even though those are killing way more people than heroin.
The crisis is spiraling out of control, and pop culture is ignoring it. Why? It could be because Hollywood thinks we don't care about something that's mostly ravaging small towns and rural areas. Or it could be because someone on coke might do something exciting, like rob a liquor store, whereas someone on Percocet will just fall asleep in their car eating Cheetos. Well, be creative, Hollywood. Make us care about that bag of Cheetos.
Abuse By Schoolteachers Is A Pretty Big Deal In Reality, Not So Much In The Media
Movies have a complicated relationship with authority figures. Priests either impart wisdom to heroes or are horrific abusers. Soldiers either sacrifice their lives for innocents or torture people. Cops are either saviors or embroiled in corruption. Mall Santas either create childhood memories or beat up Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But there's one authority figure movies don't often touch: schoolteachers. Most teachers in movies are inspiring and life-changing. At worst, they're boring sticks in the mud, and they're rarely villains. Yet schoolteachers abuse an estimated 10 percent of K-12 students in some way, ranging from verbal taunts to sexual assault. While it's by no means the same thing, that's in the same ballpark as the 7 percent of Catholic priests who have molested children. Authorities arrested nearly 500 teachers for misconduct in 2015 alone.
But this issue is almost never seriously addressed in our media. We do have "evil" teachers like Ms. Trunchbull from Matilda or Sue Sylvester from Glee, but those are over-the-top cartoon villains, clearly detached from reality. And we have sexually inappropriate teachers (who are mostly female), but such scenarios are mostly played for laughs and/or titillation. None of these portrayals have the appropriate weight behind them, so we as a culture just kind of laugh it off.
There's a reason for that: Instead of getting the law involved, most schools "pass the trash." That means covering up their abuse and shipping a problem teacher off to a new district without informing their new employer of their past behavior. This has been going on since the '80s. And despite efforts from Congress, 45 states have failed to put regulations in place that would curb it. Congress? Ineffective? Gasp and faint.
Most Immigrant Movies Are About Europeans
Classic immigrant movies like The Godfather and Gangs Of New York depict immigrants from Europe becoming successful criminals in order to achieve the American Dream (this was before the American Dream was truncated to just "becoming a successful criminal"). Others, like Brooklyn, The Immigrant, and In America, feature more realistic depictions of the hardships that immigrants had to go through. But why was that last sentence in the past tense? Immigration didn't end with the Irish.
Immigration from Europe was all the rage through the '60s, but has died off since. Now Mexicans are our biggest pool of hopeful would-be citizens. We might have a healthy Syrian refugee population, but the president springs out of bed every morning with a new plan to keep them out. Every American patronizes a few businesses owned by Indian immigrants. At least, like, two of them probably have a cool story about how they came to own that Quiznos.
This should not be the only Latino immigrant movie you can name.
Immigrant films about non-Europeans are, as a rule, under the radar, small-budget indie affairs. Very few do nationwide theater runs. It's such a starved market that Indian-made movies are performing well in Americajust playing to Indian immigrants. The biggest movie made for the huge Mexican immigrant market is Spanglish. Adam Sandler should not be the only person going to bat for you.
There Are No Armenian Genocide Movies For A Disturbing Reason
Hollywood loves genocide. Or ... well, "loves" is the wrong word. But they don't shy away from it. There's Hotel Rwanada, The Killing Fields, Schindler's List, Sophie's Choice, The Diary Of Anne Frank ... wow, there are a lot of Holocaust movies. But there's one genocide that Hollywood won't touch: the Armenian Genocide.
In 1915, the Ottoman Empire began an ethnic cleansing of Armenians. 1.5 million died, with millions more displaced or put in concentration camps. This seems like the perfect mix of tragedy and horror for an Oscar-baiting Spielberg flick. So why did he make Ready Player One instead? It's not (entirely) his fault. Hollywood has been trying make an Armenian Genocide movie for decades. In 1933, MGM attempted to turn the novel The Forty Days Of Musa Dagh into a film starring Clarke Gable. The U.S. State Department shut them down. Why? Because of Turkey -- formerly the Ottoman Empire.
Turkey denies that the genocide ever happened -- a policy they want to impose upon on every nation on Earth. If MGM made the movie, the Turkish government threatened to ban all MGM properties -- and possibly all American films -- from the country. They even claimed they'd "launch a worldwide campaign" against the movie. They ominously stated that it "rekindles the Armenian question. The Armenian question is settled."
More recently, producers like Mel Gibson and Sylvester Stallone have tried to make Armenian Genocide movies, and still hit opposition from Turkey. Tureky has withdrawn ambassadors from countries that recognize the genocide. They've condemned France, which tried to make it against the law to deny the genocide. They even had a spat with Pope Francis when he called it "the first genocide of the 20th Century."
An independent film called The Promise, set during the Armenian Genocide, played at a few film festivals in 2016.
Despite having about three screenings at the time, it pulled in 91,000 IMDb ratings before its 2017 national run. 57,000 of those were one-star reviews, and most of the rest were ten stars. The working theory is that there is a huge Turkish/Armenian feud going on in the ratings section of IMDb -- officially the dumbest place possible for a political debate about genocide.
Jordan Breeding also writes officially for Paste Magazine, unofficially on the Twitter and his blog, and with a dirty, dirty spray can in various back alleys. Follow Alyssa Feller on Twitter. James is on Twitter, and has recently tried his hand at blogging.
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