Musing on Music, Movies: Then and Now
by Roger Hines
March 09, 2014 12:00 AM | 1708 views | 6 6 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
My wife and I have never been big movie goers. Neither of us went to movies much growing up, probably for two reasons. One, we lived out in the country and going to town for a movie was an event. Two, our parents didn’t cotton to movies, mainly because movie stars were divorcing left and right and often wore too few clothes.

One summer, a sister and I were trying to convince our mother that not all movie stars and entertainers were divorcing.

“You know that Pat Boone will never get divorced,” my sister insisted.

“Well, if he’s not divorced now, I’ll give him six months,” our mother replied.

I, the little country music historian, piped up, “But Shirley Boone is Red Foley’s daughter,” hoping that attaching the Boones to a country star whom our parents liked would soften her attitude. It did.

“Well, I didn’t know that. Maybe that’ll help ’em.”

This exchange took place in the mid-50s. By the late ’60s I was courting my future wife who lived near Murfreesboro, Tenn., just south of Music City USA. It was reassuring to learn that her parents held values identical to those of my parents. Though hill people, they didn’t fully subscribe to “hillbilly” music — the precursor of country — nor did they like everything musical that came out of Nashville.

My father-in-law thought June Carter (the future June Carter Cash) was “a little forward” and “a little too silly.” His and my mother-in-law’s reservations about the Nashville scene extended to movies as well. Like my parents, they didn’t like what Hollywood had to offer, believing that much of it undermined morals.

Even so, shortly after we were married, my wife and I took her parents to see the innocuous “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” For days they talked and laughed about Julie Andrews’ character, a Roaring Twenties girl who goes to New York to achieve her “thoroughly modern” goal of getting a husband.

Somehow my parents’ jaundiced eye toward movies rubbed off on me. Their disdain for glamour (“You’re ’sposed to be yourself”), their views on nudity (“Didn’t God cover Adam and Eve?”), and their prohibition of profanity (“Bridle your tongue!”) all made sense to me.

Enter … explicit lyrics, R-rated movies, rap, desensitized young parents, cable television, and a sprinkling of young preachers who think a little pulpit profanity is cool, and we get a changed world.

Movies and songs are cultural indicators, however, so it’s wise to at least know what’s in them. As for movies, my wife and I did go see “The Help,” the movie about segregation. After the movie, as we got into our car, I began to weep and said to my wife, “That’s exactly how it was.” Thinking my emotions were vented, I drove toward the street, only to find I had to pull over and further collect myself. As a boy I had seen too much benign neglect and racial condescension to dismiss this movie.

But such emotional overload isn’t too beneficial, and that’s why I won’t be seeing “12 Years a Slave.” How productive is re-visiting the horrors of slavery? From the reviews and trailers I’ve seen, the brutality is gratuitous.

What is the value of viewing and viewing again the atrocities of an institution that we all know was evil? Movies that repeatedly re-visit such evil tend to perpetuate victimhood. They inspire guilt in those who are not guilty.

Who in America today would justify slavery? Who needs painful, visual reminders of it?

“12 Years a Slave” surely feeds the angry face and voice of MSNBC’s Al Sharpton, the Reverend who is neither reverent, nor forgiving. There are many black Americans who have eschewed victimhood and promoted freedom and justice without the hatred and invective: Dr. Ben Carson, Herman Cain, Star Parker, Professor Thomas Sowell, Professor Walter Williams, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, former U.S. Rep. Alan West and others. I’d like to see a movie about any of them.

As for musical entertainers, I’d also like to see some parents push back on Miley Cyrus, whom we are allowing to commit murder — murder of decency, grace, class, and beauty. Plato, who went too far in opposing music outright, wrote that music is “the barbarous expression of the soul, its primitive and primary speech.” Cyrus, Beyonce and far too many others are certainly validating Plato. Parents had better wake up!

But I’m glad my mother was wrong. Pat and Shirley Boone are still happily married, still setting the right kind of example for their children, grandchildren and the rest of us.

May their tribe increase.

Roger Hines is a retired high school English teacher in Kennesaw.

Comments
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moliere
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March 12, 2014
This was fundamentally dishonest.

"What is the value of viewing and viewing again the atrocities of an institution that we all know was evil?"

Viewing "again and again"? 12 Years A Slave was the first serious and direct historical treatment of slavery EVER in a movie. "Django Unchained" was a spaghetti western and an adaptation of the German Brunhilde fable. "Lincoln" and "Amazing Grace" were about abolitionists, not slavery or slaves. Ditto "Amistad", which was released way back in 1997. You would have to go back to the TV miniseries "Roots" (1977) to find one, and that was based on Alex Haley's novel and not history. The lack of movies on the subject was precisely why Steve MacQueen made it to begin with. The idea that there have been all these movies on slavery and that it is a topic that has been done to death and is only revisited because of victimization politics is a common right wing lie. There hasn't even been an "Uncle Tom's Cabin" movie, or a Harriet Tubman movie for goodness sakes.

"Movies that repeatedly re-visit such evil tend to perpetuate victimhood. They inspire guilt in those who are not guilty."

Oh really? Well do you feel the same way about Holocaust movies? More Holocaust movies get released in a single year than have EVER been made about slavery. Or about about movies about the horrors of communism? Granted, Hollywood has gotten too liberal to make anti-communist movies these days, but anti-communist movies were very common from the 1950s through the 1980s. They even had Saturday morning kids' cartoons about the subject! Was that "hatred and invective" against communism and Nazis?

And what about Civil War movies? Do you feel the same way about "Gone With The Wind" as you do "12 Years A Slave"? Oh, but Yankee-baiting is fine, I guess. No hateful, anti-Americanism about Yankee-baiting.

"There are many black Americans who have eschewed victimhood and promoted freedom and justice without the hatred and invective."

Funny, another right wing trick of ONLY listing identifiable Republicans and conservatives as being blacks who are worthy of respect. The effect of this is to dismiss and condemn the other 95% of black Americans. And by the way, if an anti-slavery movie is not a pro-freedom, pro-justice movie, WHAT IS? And incidentally, no black conservative has criticized 12 Years A Slave. Quite the contrary, several black conservatives have seen it and praised it.

Finally, as to the brutality of the movie, by all accounts the book was even more brutal and the moviemakers had to tone it down. The things that slave owners did to emotionally, mentally and psychologically break down their slaves in order to keep them from organizing, rebelling, running away etc. was extremely graphic. It was such that a great many slaves were too afraid to leave even when they had the chance to.

And incidentally, 12 Years A Slave was not anti-white. It depicted one slave owner as being a decent, compassionate man who treated his slaves humanely. And it was compassionate whites who contacted Solomon Northrup's family, which led to his freedom being secured. As it was based on a true story, it was not the ideological cartoonish white-bashing that you associate with Al Sharpton and MSNBC that leads to alleged victimization and guilt, but a historical film that depicted the full range of events and people, black and white.

Maybe you conservatives need to tell us which movies should be made and which shouldn't. But funny, when liberals do that, conservatives are the first to scream "thought police", "political correctness" and "censorship."
Tony Maddox
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March 11, 2014
Kev, you seem to be struggling a bit here..old age? wearing down? tired of fighting losing battles? Well, let me help you out: Poignant is an adjective. Among other definitions of the word, I went with the one(s) that fit the context of the subject at hand, i.e.; 2. keen or strong in mental appeal: a subject of poignant interest. 3.affecting or moving the emotions: a poignant scene. Obviously the word was not intended to be linked with 'slavery.' My conclusion here is that you have displaced animosities that we, your readers, would expect from you in other situations, but hopefully not at the person/ article whom you lambasted. Alas, you never disappoint, because you seemingly can do no other. I would conclude then, as many others have, that you suffer malfunction on many fronts, and are seriously in need of a checkup from the neck up. Ciao!

mdx9668
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March 10, 2014
Kevin, you obnoxious fool! Roger pens a very poignant and soul baring article and no one but you could turn it into a race baiting issue. Worse, I didn't even know about the stars-and-bars license plates until YOU brought it up. So if there is an increase in the purchase of these tags we can all thank you for inadvertently pushing it. Personally, I would never sport this tag but I'll defend to the end anyone's right to do so. Being a native Georgian I am very aware that slavery existed. Most Americans do; We know it, we know it, we KNOW it for gosh sakes, do why keep ramming down everyone's throats? Want to keep fanning that painful memory, keep it alive? Make it 'required' viewing by freshman and you'll do just that! It's about time the liberal factions let loose of some of their beloved 'issues' and move into the future.

Tony Maddox

Kennesaw, Ga.
Kevin Foley
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March 10, 2014
Maddox, what is your malfunction? Poignant? Please.
moliere
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March 12, 2014
"and no one but you could turn it into a race baiting issue"

"What is the value of viewing and viewing again the atrocities of an institution that we all know was evil? Movies that repeatedly re-visit such evil tend to perpetuate victimhood. They inspire guilt in those who are not guilty.

Who in America today would justify slavery? Who needs painful, visual reminders of it?

“12 Years a Slave” surely feeds the angry face and voice of MSNBC’s Al Sharpton, the Reverend who is neither reverent, nor forgiving."

And you accuse Foley of race-baiting? Please.

Kevin Foley
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March 09, 2014
"Who in America today would justify slavery? Who needs painful, visual reminders of it?"

Roger, you may have heard there is a relentless push to promote the stars and bars by white southerners, a "painful, visual" reminder of slavery to virtually all African-Americans. Now you can get that reminder on your license plate in Georgia.

"12 Years a Slave" should be required viewing for all college freshmen so they understand what an obscenely immoral institution it was.
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