Maybe it’s all the tragedy lately, they surmise, Sandy Hook and Hurricane Sandy, that’s bringing them down.
Maybe it’s the fiscal cliff impasse and the nagging feeling that things are only getting worse – not better.
Some say that Christmas is more about retail than religion and the season seems to start earlier and earlier each year.
While all those factors may be true, I gauge where we are as a culture from our entertainment. This is where clues to our collective malaise emerge.
If you want evidence at how much Americans love violence, you only need to look at the films we see. The top five box office films of 2012 were “The Avengers,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” (hard to think about without recalling the shooting in Colorado), “The Hunger Games,” “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2″ and “Amazing Spider Man.”
What do these films have in common? They are all fantasy / action films with tons of violence. None of these films are comedies, historic, documentary or buddy films. Maybe “Twilight” is a romance, but it extolls the virtues of chastity and vampires, a stupid combo if ever there was one.
So in the wake of Sandy Hook, it’s hard to have a real discussion about gun control when all the films we watch are about the glorification of guns, of “good guys” (your side) over “bad guys” (anyone different from you) and resolving issues by duking them out or simply killing someone before they have the chance to kill you. You don’t have to look to video games to feel the effects of how desensitized we have become to blood, guts, crime and gore.
The news on the top selling book of 2012 is not much more encouraging. The “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy, about an S&M relationship, was all the rage. Sexy – maybe – but hardly romantic – and hardly literature.
The most watched television shows, after football, were “American Idol,” “Dancing with the Stars,” and “The Voice,” focusing on competition, pressure and being the best at any cost.
Is it any wonder we are depressed about Christmas? We are a culture of mean!
Our entertainment – the way we escape the reality of our own lives – focuses on the worst aspects of people: vanity, competition, violence, pettiness. We tune in to Real Housewives on Bravo hoping for the inevitable catfight. We watch catty redneck toddlers made up like drag queens try to squash their fellow toddlers. We gape in mock horror at hoarders and people with strange addictions. The constant freak show and barrage of negativity – not even just on the news – seeps into everyone’s psyche and creates a culture of selfish, isolated and paranoid people.
There is always someone new to blame: terrorists, single mothers, immigrants, top models, chef’testants. It’s impossible to come together as a whole when we only see fractures and fissures everywhere with no balance. There’s no yang to balance the yin. Morale is the lowest I can remember since 9/11. But this time, we’re only at war with each other and on the verge of an implosion.
My suggestion for 2013 is this: turn off the television, support movies with positive messages and look for ways to be kind to your fellow humans. Let love replace fear and hate. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Help neighbors in need. See the best in people. It’s there, even if Hollywood and Fox News try to convince you otherwise. It is just as easy to be nice as it is to be cruel. And only kindness will set us free.
Happy Holidays from all of us (me) at MEOW.