Last week I wrote of how my wife and daughter talked me into watching a movie on our DVD player – and about how I walked out of the movie, which is easy to do when you’re sitting in the living room.
This past weekend, my wife and I went to the cinema (it’s more fun to walk out on a movie in the cinema), to see … brace yourselves … the movie “Hangover”. Now you may ask, why would you go to see a movie that’s obviously a vulgar comedy about men behaving badly? The answer is that I’m not so much of a prude that I think all R-rated movies which are superficially vulgar are necessarily worthless. And I don’t think foul language alone makes for a bad movie, nor do I think depictions of sin make for a bad movie, unless the sin is somehow endorsed or not integral to the dramatic point of the picture.
That having been said, I don’t want this post to sound like I’m bashing this movie because it was vulgar, crude, and beyond redemption. On the contrary, I’m going to bash this movie for a far more serious and frightening reason.
In fact, in many ways the film has a certain Neanderthal charm to it. That having been said, there’s much more gratuitous profanity and gross-out humor than the film warrants. In that way, it reminded me of “Something about Mary”, a silly comedy of a few years back that was a clever farce about mistaken identity overlaid with unnecessary adolescent body-function jokes. And we could rightly fault “Hangover” for its endorsement of the “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” mentality, for its depiction of women as either frigid witches or prostitutes, for its glib treatment of drug use, and for all that stuff. But I was expecting all that.
What is seriously disturbing about this movie was two things. First, there are scenes with a baby that cross the line into child abuse. And secondly, the movie ends with – there is no other way to describe it – hard core pornography. Pictures are flashed on the screen just before the closing credits that document the heretofore forgotten experiences of the guys in Vegas. And the pictures include a sexual act – right there, before the hundred or more people in the theater, we saw something that even “Playboy” would not have depicted – genital exposure and contact in a sex act that no more than twenty years ago would have been something visible only in shady “adult” bookstores, something that if enacted at the strip clubs on the “east side” of St. Louis would have led to a raid and arrests.
My wife and I left with a sick feeling. Surely, we’ve grown accustomed to vulgarity in movies – but this is crossing a line that is very disturbing. This movie was rated “R”, meaning anyone of any age would have been allowed in with his or her parent. Not very long ago this movie would have been rated “X”.
This is all part of making evil mainstream. It used to be that guys who indulged in pornography were seen as creeps and perverts. There was shame associated with this sin. Guys would have to frequent shady places to pursue this shady thing. Then home VCRs and especially the internet meant that men didn’t have to sneak into the seedy part of town, they could invite this infection into their very homes. And now ordinary people in a theater are subjected to pornography in a mainstream movie that my 17-year old son could see, or that my 14-year old daughter could have seen, had we been stupid enough to take her with us. This is not just Janet Jackson’s breast. This is the end of all decency.
The things that this movie makes mainstream – child abuse, casual drug use and drug references that go beyond alcohol or pot and that include the kinds of drugs only seriously disturbed people are into, and the display of hard core pornographic images as a matter of course in an R-rated comedy – none of these things have been even commented upon in the quick Google search I did on “Hangover” before writing this post.
This is the end of decency – of sanity – and of culture.