- - Friday, September 26, 2014

“Let me write the songs of a nation, and I care not who writes its laws.” So wrote the Scottish statesman Andrew Fletcher, in summarizing the idea he found in the writings of Plato. Fletcher fought vigorously against the Act of Union with England in 1707, believing Scotland should be independent. I suppose he’s turning over in his grave and wishing he had written a few more ballads right about now.

After fighting as a legislator, soldier and author, Fletcher concluded that those who influenced the daily lives of citizens by writing the popular songs and entertainments, had the power to inspire their audience to action or inaction and, in his mind, to freedom or submission.

It’s an interesting point; one that recognizes the power of the arts and entertainment. The power of the arts may be subtle, but it is undeniable. As Aristotle said, “The soul never thinks without a picture.” You can’t have a song or even a melody without engendering some type of emotional feeling from the listener. Music is the universal language because it needs no words to communicate feelings or emotions. But when the right music is added to the actions of an actor who portrays a powerfully written script, the scene’s effectiveness on its audience is raised to a whole new level.

In previous eras, the powerful combination of the arts could only be found in opera houses or theaters; accessible but yet not readily available to the masses. The accessible new art form of television and film is unique to our age and it would be foolish to deny its influence. It’s all around us. In this new age of instant access to entertainment wherever we go, the power of the arts permeates our society and is a daily part of the national dialogue. Those wielding this power take it seriously and many times have a motivation or agenda for the art they produce. They are trying to elicit a certain action or response from their audience: laughter, pathos, anger or acceptance.

But the question remains: Have those wielding the power of the arts affected American culture to the point of changing hearts and minds more than those who write the laws? I would argue that Andrew Fletcher knew exactly what he was talking about back in 1707, because, for good or bad, those in the American entertainment industr for the past century have most definitely affected our culture and perhaps our world.

Because our minds and emotions have been so powerfully stirred by those we’ve watched on screen, we tend to elevate them to hero status. They’re called “stars” and “celebrities” because of the way they effectively reach our hearts. It’s not reality, but it does speak to us in a way that can affect our own reality. Perhaps that’s why we’re so disappointed when the “stars” we so admire and who touched us so deeply start advocating things we disagree with. It’s disappointing on a personal level but completely within their rights as Americans. I don’t have a problem with stars being activists. I do have a problem when only one side is allowed to be vocal while the other side is threatened and intimidated from doing so.

Artists love their art, but they are still citizens and voters. In America, they should not fear losing their job for expressing their opinions as citizens or as artists. Such has been the case for years in Hollywood. That is the “fault” we’ve seen with our Hollywood stars. But take heart. A new day is dawning.

No longer are we limited to choices from the old Hollywood studio system. We have more choices in programming and entertainment than ever before. Never in the history of the world have people had such unfettered access to knowledge or information. From hundreds of cable/satellite channels like the  History Channel, Animal Planet and National Geographic, to movies depicting great scenes from history, classic literature and life sciences, the world has never before experienced the presentation of stories and information in such a powerful way. Science, artifacts, battles, romance, historic heroes: they are presented in living color, with re-enactments or pictures, exciting dialogue and stirring music to pull the audience into the subject matter. It makes the presentation memorable for the audience in a way they won’t ever forget.

Enter the agenda.

There’s no doubt, whether subtle or obvious, that Hollywood has been pushing their agenda for decades. They understand the power of their art and use it skillfully. Where we see entertainment, they see influence. But that’s exactly what artists do. They express what inspires them and their interpretation of the world through their art. They sometimes must adjust in order to make a profit, but their preference is to present what speaks to them most of all. I would argue that it is their right to express their perspective in their art. It is the viewers right to accept or reject their perspective as relevant or accurate. The problem comes when only one side of the philosophical perspective limits or intimidates dissenting viewpoints. Whether it was financial monopoly, intimidation or lack of interest from the opposing philosophical viewpoint which kept Hollywood’s agenda so lopsided, the tide has now turned.

In the last 10 years, a new crop of artists have begun to actively harness the power of the medium. Not surprisingly, they’ve found a receptive, untapped market of patrons, eager for quality entertainment, but with an appetite for hearing a new point of view.

The market for family-friendly, wholesome entertainment is booming to the point that Hollywood cannot ignore it anymore. From the Kendrick brothers films like “Facing the Giants” and “Fireproof” to the Hallmark Channel’s new TV show “When Calls the Heart,” American families are voraciously consuming the wholesome, values-based story lines and characters they see on the screen. Parents are thrilled to see their kids excited to watch shows and movies with morals and values and are relieved to be able to sit down as a family without fear of inappropriate innuendoes or unnecessary violence.

This was most recently illustrated by the organic reaction to Hallmark Channel’s newest series, “When Calls the Heart,” when thousands of fans (mainly young mothers and grandmothers) sprang to action in an effort to ensure a second season. Mothers and grandmothers started setting up first-time social media accounts, giving each other tutorials on how to “tweet” and use hashtags in order to help their new favorite TV show trend, raise awareness and increase viewership across the country. It worked. The #Hearties (self-named fans of “When Calls the Heart”) got what they wanted and are still a force to be reckoned with on social media.

As the mom of two young boys, I’m so thankful that my children now view a Canadian Mountie, serving with discipline, character and integrity in a small town on the frontier, as one of their heroes.

The fact that we can sit down to laugh together at the misadventures of the Robertson clan of Duck Dynasty and see them pray together at the end of each episode is so refreshing! Enjoying with amazement the teamwork and organization of the Duggar clan as they raise their “19 Kids and Counting” is great! I’m more than thrilled that my sons see the characters in “Courageous” not just as policemen, but as men who exemplify true heroism by being Godly husbands and fathers. It’s exciting that, when given a whole slew of kid-appropriate movies to pick from, my kids choose to watch “God’s Not Dead,” “Mom’s Night Out,” Kirk Cameron’s “Unstoppable,” “The Chronicles of Narnia” or the Christian comedian “Tim Hawkins” instead of the latest animated film. They admire the actors and actresses in these films, but they like the story lines even more. In fact, they actually admire those who had the guts to write and produce the films. They see the writers as heroes for overcoming obstacles and being determined to write and produce family-oriented films.

Sure, my kids follow the careers of some of the young actors and actresses on the Disney channel, but they’re more interested in being part of this emerging trend of values-based entertainers who boldly present their worldview without fear or apology.

I think Hollywood is catching on, but oh, so slowly. One of the highest grossing films of all time illustrates the hunger for faith-based films, “The Passion of the Christ.” Totally rejected and ridiculed by Hollywood elites, it sparked controversy with those who have held the reigns of monopoly so tightly for so long in LA and New York, but was eagerly embraced and appreciated by the American public. With such an overwhelmingly positive reaction from viewers, Hollywood understands the market is there,that the monetary reward is waiting, but it just doesn’t match the majority of their personal agendas.

That’s OK. They don’t have the market cornered on entertainment any longer, and that’s a good thing. Thank goodness that in America, we still have some semblance of freedom of speech and free markets. Perhaps now more than ever, Americans have wider spectrum of choices. Many who are committed to presenting morality, decency and the traditional values of American culture have decided to take action and fill the void in entertainment. They’ve found interested investors and artists alike. A little competition is good and the American people are more than ready for a balanced approach. There’s a new constellation of stars for our kids and it’s about time; stars who dare to go against the status-quo by writing, producing and starring in wholesome yet excellent entertainment. The proof that their message has found its intended target is in the reaction of the American people at the box office and with the TV remote.

As a mother, I want my children to understand both sides of an argument, but there’s a Thomas Jefferson quote on my dining room wall that states a rule we follow at our house: “Errors of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it.”

So, I’m “Just Sayin’ ” — Now that we have both sides free to express their perspectives through their art, let the conversation continue, let a diversity of opinions be presented and let sound reason arm herself for victory in the battle for truth.

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