As today’s society gets more advanced, so does the media. And with that, the definition of what’s ethical versus what’s not is getting more and more skewed. The question of mortality and ethical concerns have come up now more than ever in the topic of media in Hollywood. For the latter half of 2014 until now there have many films raising ethical concerns in America. Clifford Christians, a media ethicist summarizes this development saying, “In our day, morality has appeared to reach the end of the line. The social fashion is to be emancipated from moral standards and to disavow moral responsibility. We are witnessing the demise of the ethical, living, in what Nietzsche called the era beyond good and evil…Popular culture gets caught up in the technological imperative, producing the visually interesting, creating programs at times of artistic wholeness, but driven by the conditions of aesthetic space rather than ethics. (2005, p. 4)” (Plaisance, 2014).
Thomas Cooper also raises the concern about today’s ethics in the media in his article Between the Summits. Through his study, he took a deeper look into what Americans think of today’s media and how there’s a rise in concern about what’s crossing the line of being ethical or not in media outlets such as television, internet, video games, film, telephone, audio, print and photography. Saying that, “There is ample evidence to suggest that Americans at large no longer trust, if they ever did trust, the American media. Despite exceptions, both public and professionals especially distrust those who control and own such technologies. Although media excess, deception, and invasion of privacy top the list of concerns, a longer list of secondary concerns, boosted by new technologies and changing context, grows rapidly” (Cooper, 2008).
In recent speculations in the media, Hollywood and this year’s highly anticipated films that have hit the big screen are raising more ethical concerns than ever before. “Movie studios are already some of the most risk-averse businesses on Earth, and that’s only becoming more and more true with every year…” (VanDerWerff, 2014). Between SONY’s The Interview, which stars two of America’s favorite raunchy comedians Dave Franco and Seth Rogan and Focus Features’ Fifty Shades of Grey which brings to the big screen crude “glorified pornography”, these two films have gotten an abundance of publicity—good and bad.
Granted, the reason for The Interview to get pulled from being shown in theaters was due to SONY getting hacked prior to its premiere, “…a movie about the assassination of a foreign leader has seemed like a bad idea for any movie studio to pursue, no matter how ridiculous the context of that film. Yes, movie studios have made films mocking foreign leaders before — like the Charlie Chaplin classic The Great Dictator, which made fun of Hitler to devastating effect — but those films did not actually depict said leaders’ assassinations. Plus, turning Kim Jong Un into a buffoon could undercut the horrible things actually happening in North Korea right now”(VanDerWerff, 2014). The message behind the film was intended to be funny, but raised many moral and ethical concerns with its motives.
As for Fifty Shades of Grey, the film has gotten much praise from the devoted readers of the trilogy of books by E.L James. But for as much admiration it’s gotten, it’s also caused much controversy on the topic of the storyline, too. “This is a troubling fantasy in American culture, where one in five women will be raped within their lifetime, according to the CDC; where nearly 40 percent of those rapes will happen to women aged 18 to 24; and where troubling evidence of casual attitudes toward rape…As images of Ana being beaten by Christian become the new normal for what’s considered erotic, they raise questions about what it means to “consent” to sex. Clearly, consent is necessary; but is it sufficient?” (Lay, 2015). The line between today’s ethical norm in movies and what the film industry was like years prior, has diminished dramatically. To get to the point where people question their everyday lives because of movies today are portraying, makes the public more uneasy and wary of today’s media.
Cooper, T. (2008). Between the summits: What Americans think about media ethics. Journal of mass media ethics, 23(1), 15-21. doi:10.1080/08900520701753106
Green, E. (2015). Consent isn’t enough: the troubling sex of Fifty Shades. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/consent-isnt-enough-in-fifty-shades-of-grey/385267/
Plaisance, P.L. (2014). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publication, Inc.
VanDerWerff, T. (2014). Sony won’t release The Interview Christmas Day after all. Retrieved from http://www.vox.com/2014/12/17/7411779/sony-hack-interview-pulled