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Where is Hollywood Heading?
Apr 1, 2003

American movies dominate the global film industry. Almost everyone is exposed to these Hollywood clips and movies to some degree. Now that the communication systems are so well developed, the film industry has a great influence upon people. Well aware of this power, governments and institutions exploit it for their own interests. Just like Jules Verne's dreams, events are first displayed on the wide screen and then brought to reality. Any particular word, action, or clothing style might start a new global fashion.

Although this industry had been an effective instrument for advertising and increasing political and social efficiency, the wide screen is being used for different purposes. In contrast with earlier films, which were dominated by guns, money, and status and also promoted authority, individualism, adventure-seeking, and atheism, the last 5 years have seen movies highlight something else: material gain should not be the ultimate purpose, the necessity of unity and cooperation, and life after death. This reflects the severely deteriorated structure of the American family and wondering how it can be restored.

Movies with social themes

Family themes. In The Kid (2000), Bruce Willis plays a workaholic who long ago forgot his past and family and refuses to see his father. Then one day his childhood appears before his eyes in the form of himself as a child. Thanks to this event, he makes peace with his past and gradually regains his lost values. This movie is one of many recent movies depicting weakened family ties: a lack of spousal love, children leaving home at earlier ages and forgetting their families, and elderly parents being left unprotected by their children.

In The Family Man (2000), Nicholas Cage is a passionate businessman desperate to achieve as high a status as possible. He does not know that real pleasure can be found in a lovely wife and children. One day, he wakes up and finds himself married with two children. As fictitious as it is, he cannot realize how his life changed all of a sudden, but later realizes real happiness with his new family. The first thing he does after this so-close-to-real dream is to search for the woman he is going to marry.

American Beauty, which won the Oscar in 1999, made its way through many other big-budget movies. Spousal mistrust and the widening generation gap were the main topic in this movie, and the fact it won The Best Picture award shows the importance given to the concept of family.

Life after death themes. Life after death also has been a popular theme. The Sixth Sense (1990), a nominee for The Best Picture award in 1999, features a child who sees dead people walking around like regular people. They have an explicit message: The universe is more than what we can perceive through our five senses. In Ghost (1990), Patrick Swayze is a dead person whose soul is still in touch with this world and his beloved wife, whom he tries to protect from danger. What Dreams May Come (1998) takes Robin Williams into Heaven and Hell so he can meet his wife and children again. Gladiator (2000), awarded five Oscars including The Best Picture award, is the story of the Maximus, commander-in-chief of the Roman army, who is willing to leave behind status and fame so that he can reunite with his family for happiness. He is an invincible " but praying " commander, who teaches his soldiers about what comes after death, and tragically reaches his family at the end.

Angels and the Devil. Angels and the Devil also are frequent topics. City of Angels (1998) is a good example. Meg Ryan is a person who can exercise free will, taste worldly pleasures, and is expected to know God, whereas Nicholas Cage is an angel who lives in a different dimension and has none of these abilities. Likewise, Brad Pitt portrays the angel of death in Meet Joe Black (1998) and shows us a fictional perspective through an angel's eyes.

In the digitally remastered and remixed version of The Exorcist (2000), a family tries to reclaim their possessed teenage daughter through every possible medical treatment. In the end, however, two priests are called to exorcise the demon. In The Devil's Advocate (1997), Al Pacino portrays the Devil, who seeks to control people with lust, status, and money. Keanu Reeves portrays a very successful lawyer who has never lost a trial. He finds himself in a struggle between the Devil's intrigues and his human virtues.

In End of Days (1999), Arnold Schwarzenegger is an ex-cop who believes in the brute power of muscles and weapons. However, he comes to realize that conventional methods of combat do not work on Beelzebub (the Devil), and so has to devise other solutions. Throwing away his machine gun, he kneels at the altar and prays for help.

Destiny. Destiny is another hot topic. Destiny is a significant part of the belief that keeps societies up and strong. Such a belief lets us know that everything comes from God, which gives us the strength to bear life's difficulties. Almost 100 years ago, speculation that a comet might hit Earth scared many people who did not believe in destiny. Final Destination is about a group of young people who attempt, but fail, to challenge the destiny that is chasing them. The Green Mile and Fight Club are also good examples for movies with metaphysical content that show that life is not all that we can see.

Religion. Christianity is being questioned in Hollywood movies. In Stigmata (1999), during the 1940s some scripts " supposedly the original New Testament scriptures from Jesus' time " written in ancient Aramaic on leather pieces are found rolled in several jars. They are sent to Rome, after which nothing is heard about them. In the meantime, Frankie, a young girl in her twenties, is attacked brutally by an unseen assailant. She consults doctors and psychiatrists, but nobody can help her. The only man who can help is Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne), an investigator sent by the Vatican to stop demons from taking over her life.

Bless the Child (2000) tells about a child with supernatural powers. Her evil occultist mom and stepfather want to take her back from her aunt who raised her. The girl talks with her stepfather just like Jesus talked with the Devil, as recorded in the Bible. Her aunt tries to save her from a Biblical prophecy, and in the end angels help them out. In Dracula (2000), people realize that they can defeat Dracula's supernatural powers only by seeking help from God.

Hollywood also has become interested in other religions. Several movies have been made about Buddhist Tibet and the Dalai Lama. Islam, despite its close and popular association with terrorism in the minds of many, has appeared in a few movies with some positive images. For example, Antonio Banderas played a Muslim envoy (Ahmad Ibn Fadlan) from Amawis in the 13th Warrior (1999), who was an educated and refined person. In Robin Hood (1991), during the Fourth Crusade Kevin Costner brought with him back to England a scholarly Muslim who was admired by the English because he could use binoculars and gunpowder.


These movies inspire us with a promising future, as materialism appears to be less popular and people are interested in searching for the soul, the Hereafter, brotherhood and sisterhood, peace, and love. We can only hope that this trend will continue.