Hollywood would not be Hollywood without recurring scandals. Tinseltown always struggles to remain relevant, and in light of the Penn State affair, she has once again managed to keep up with mainstream American life. From Congress on down through schools, sports, Scouting, music, and of course the clergy, our country seems to be a passion pit of pedophilia. Not to be left behind, Hollywood now offers its own pedophile scandal—one which may at last open up the rampant abuse of film-industry minors here to national scrutiny.
Apart from the obvious point—if only government officials, teachers, coaches, scoutmasters, music promoters, and casting directors were allowed to marry, this would never happen—there is much to ponder here. What makes this current wave of public interest unusual is that the names of prominent victims have surfaced: the two Coreys, Feldman and Haim, beloved of 1980s audiences. Especially in the light of Haim’s death, theirs is a sordid and tragic tale. But as Feldman has said, it is far from unusual. Moreover, it melds with the ancient cinematic institution called the casting couch. As the decades have passed, that furniture item has become ever more coed. It apparently has also become more youth-oriented.
Such goings-on at the nexus of political or economic power are nothing new. Men at the top have needs, which is why Congress set the age of consent in the District of Columbia at 16. From time to time, allegations of pedophile rings among various local elites will rock different towns and cities. But Hollywood, in its self-proclaimed role as moral arbiter, is more than a mirror of contemporary norms. Earnest stars lecture us regularly on the evils of smoking, intolerance, the death penalty, animal cruelty, and numerous other societal ills.
So how about we urge Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie to embark on a new crusade to stamp out child molestation in the film industry and overturn the casting couch? Let them refuse to work with those they know to be guilty of such practices. Let them urge the public to boycott them as they might do with fur or meat.
If they prove unwilling to address such a clear and present evil on their own turf, I have an alternative for such folk: Shut up. That’s right, shut up. Spare us your maunderings about your various causes (though please continue to send them money). Make your virtuous deeds as silent as your outrage over abuses within your own industry.
Switching from media power to political power, we must learn to be as suspicious of our government as we have become of our clergymen. For starters, urge your Congresscreatures to raise the age of consent in DC to 18 as proof of their commitment to moral rectitude. Should this result in multiple arrests of lawmakers, fear not—plenty more where they came from. The House of Representatives Page Program has thankfully been shut down; urge the Senate and White House to follow suit.
If we are involved in any pursuit oriented toward young people, it is not enough to simply increase our vigilance over the teachers, coaches, Scoutmasters, or priests in charge of them. We must rededicate ourselves to the ultimate goals for which these programs exist—be they academic, sporting, character-building, or religious. All of our institutions have drifted over the past decades from their original purposes, in part because those wielding power are constantly attacking or undermining those purposes. But sportsmanship, learning, and the Scout law are very good things—traditions that corruption by those entrusted with passing them on should not be allowed to obscure.
Mixing our basically Calvinist national psyche with the sexual revolution has created a culture at once amoral and moralistic. Not only do we tolerate our leadership’s moral failings to a degree unheard-of in years past, we either passively accept or actively endorse what they consider moral crusades, be they against smoking, fur, or pâté. Given that it’s the holiday season, the studious avoidance of the word “Christmas” by so many in power is particularly galling.
We need to rededicate ourselves to common decency and try to obliterate within us the double standard—the tendency to ignore ill-doing on the part of those we respect—that is so much a part of our humanity. But let us also oppose evil with positive good. That way, we will have some grounds on which to complain.
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