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Tarpeian Rock

An Annual Literary Magazine

"Hinc ad Tarpeiam sedem et Capitolia ducit
aurea nunc, olim siluestribus horrida dumis."

                    --Virgil's Aeneid, VIII, l. 347-8
Articles from
the 2006 issue...

Filleting Nemo

If Bigfoot Could Vote

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Filleting Nemo

by Anthony P. Schiavo, Jr.

    In early 2005, Christians around the world were aghast but hardly surprised when The Passion of the Christ—a brilliant cinematic achievement in any previous age of the silver screen—was snubbed by the Academy Awards. What a difference a year makes? In this case, no difference. In 2006, the run-up to the Academy Awards became a three-week long public service announcement for an “alternative lifestyle” that a sizable majority of Americans find revolting.
    It is perhaps neither new nor surprising that the entertainment industry is dominated by narcissistic hedonists who seem to be in a race to see who can destroy themselves and those around them in the most spectacular way. The difference between this current crop of Hollyweirdos and those of previous generations, however, is that the talent well seems to have finally run dry. I find myself uttering exactly this sentiment time and again as commercials for sequel after prequel after re-make after spin-off pop up unsolicited on my TV. You know things are bad when they’re making Miss Congeniality II. And not only did they remake Cheaper By The Dozen, but the remake was hardly out on DVD ten minutes when Cheaper By The Dozen II arrived in theaters.
    Yes, the entertainment industry’s got nothing. The creative juices have dried up. Their spark of genius has been doused under a gusher of raw sewage. When they’re not producing the ugly and offensive, all they’ve got left is the shallow and derivative. It’s gotten to the point in my house that we actively joke about how pathetic, pedestrian, and predictable Hollywood productions have become.
    They can't even slide their jive by a pre-schooler anymore. I recently made the mistake of allowing my 3-year-old to watch the seemingly innocuous Finding Nemo. Of course, the precocious lad immediately picked out some of the fishier aspects of Nemo’s character and I was soon peppered with questions like “Why did Nemo say ‘I hate you’ to his dad?” After explaining that Nemo was a smart-mouthed little smolt who got into trouble specifically because he didn't listen to his father, I decided to try a different tactic. A week or so later, I opened a can of sardines and announced, “Guess what we're having for lunch today? Nemo!” And let me tell you, I’ve never seen a kid eat a sardine with such gusto. After he was done, he proudly announced, “Nemo was delicious!”
    As the movie was a box-office success, I have no doubt that the next seven sequels to Finding Nemo are already in production. However, unless they’re called Catching Nemo, Baking Nemo in a Honey-Mustard Sauce, and Eating Nemo, we won't be watching them.
    Yes, the creativity gap in writing for big-screen films is striking. But it is equally bad on television. Based on what passes for dialogue on many of these shows, I can only assume that a prospective writer, when applying for a job, must prove that he can crank out at least 20 scato-jokes per half-hour and insert at least 3 not-so-cleverly-disguised left-wing political statements in each script.
    And what, exactly, is their problem with the family? You remember, the one-man-one-woman-and-children family? On the rare occasion that such an anomalous family does make a brief appearance on either the big or small screen, they are invariably portrayed as a collection of pathologies who manage to stay together only because no one else could tolerate them. Every time I see such a dysfunctional family on TV, I hear a producer somewhere saying, “Here's what we think of you peons. And you’re so stupid, you’ll actually watch it and laugh!”
    And what is the underlying message in all the offal that Hollywood continues to crank out? Simply this: “Follow your own desires—however sick and twisted they may be—and let everyone else rot.” I’d wager that this is the main theme in about 90% of the Disney movies made since 1970. Parents and authority figures in general must be the antagonists in such a set-up by design. Pounding this message home day and night has proven  a clever way to subvert the family. Diabolically clever.
    How many times has the demand “accept me for who I am!” been broadcast over the past 40 years? No doubt, this puerile refrain will be echoed by children and adolescents who imbibe this stuff on a daily basis. But my question always was, “what if who you are is a dope-smoking, two-timing, verbally abusive sociopath?” Inevitably, “accept me for who I am” is a nice way of saying, “I demand that you accept and affirm my wretched behavior.”
    In his excellent book, It Takes a Family, Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum identifies this pernicious attitude as “no fault freedom”—that is, the belief that freedom is the ability to do what you want, when you want, where you want, to whoever you want. As long as no one is physically hurt, bad actions need not have consequences. This vision of “freedom” is nothing like the liberty the Founding Fathers embraced. They would have immediately branded this beast for what it is: license. And no republic in history has ever long been able to govern a nation of licentious scoundrels. Such a ship of fools requires a somewhat more forceful hand on the tiller.
    And that brings us back to Hollyweird. Those of us who yearn for a rebirth of liberty based on personal responsibility, honor, piety, generosity, hard work, and courage have reason for hope. The current crop of entertainment media intelligentsia are mere shadows of their predecessors. Whereas in the past, malevolent messages could often be hidden within magnificent writing, production, and acting, such is hardly the case today. Even in some of the biggest budget productions, the writing is atrocious, their foul themes displayed without subtlety and applied repeatedly with a baseball bat.
    Artistic mediocrity has never inspired anyone to do anything, except laugh derisively. Indeed, bad message art tends to have exactly the opposite of its intended effect. That is why I'm perfectly content to let the anti-Christian, anti-family, anti-American entertainment media continue to create works which win few converts to their cause but lose lots of money.
    That said, it is past time for a new alternative arts and entertainment scene to arise which cherishes and promotes our common Judeo-Christian ideals. There are faint glimmers on the horizon as religious-themed songs continue to have robust popularity in country/western music and movies like The Exorcism of Emily Rose find box office success even though critics are horrified by the sympathetic Catholic overtones. As patrons of the arts and entertainment media, it is imperative that such endeavors be given our public appreciation and support.

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