Friday, March 14, 2008

Reviving the Unwritten Moral Laws for Producers, Directors and Actors

It has happened a lot of times before and even after Aga Mulach and Janice de Belen did it in the ‘80’s. However, teenage pregnancies, whether among celebrities or not, occur more often now than before. Why and how this has come to pass is a dilemma which parents, sociologists and psychologists will tackle for many more years.

Let us take a brief look at this problem and try to show how and why this social malady has been aggravated by many sectors of society. From there we might find ways to solve it.

Firstly, media – particularly TV and the movies – have provided an easy access for teenagers to derive unsupervised or ill-advised exposure to normal and abnormal sexual practices. Normal sex-display, in the sense of married couples performing the act on-screen whether done with or without artistic finesse, will ultimately lead curious teeners to experience arousal and provide them the early motivation to indulge in sexual activities. Abnormal sexual acts, in the case of unmarried, homosexual or bestial partners exhibiting their passions in wild and shameless abandon, will go several steps toward distorting, if not totally destroying young people’s perceptions about sex, love and marital relationships.

With this unprecedented unbridled accessibility to adult information and entertainment formerly confined to certain individuals with perverted values, we have let loose the gates of promiscuity and immorality. The former normal social controls no longer apply and new ones implemented, if any at all, have no power to prevent our kids from being exploited economically by greedy business-people and purveyors of sleaze.

Secondly, parental guidance has all but given itself to parental “allowance”. Yes, parents still mouth the same old taboos or warnings to their children but nevertheless watch such seemingly harmless noontime shows that parade women in sexy clothes dancing seductively right in the privacy of their homes. This gradual neglect of the former strict adherence to modesty and propriety in appearance and behavior has led to the abandonment of our traditional respect for women and for the value and sanctity of the human body in our national psyche. We have unconsciously taught our children that certain things (like pumping your butt while dancing or uttering sexual innuendos) are as acceptable as overeating or staying late to watch TV. Devitalized spiritual and social values go hand in hand with our devitalized dietary and diurnal habits. Unhealthful values lead to sickly lives.

Thirdly, our civil laws have not been implemented strictly upon violators of our laws on marriage and moral behaviors. A lad who gets a girl pregnant is certainly not a criminal who deserves to be punished especially if there is no foul-play involved. However, in most cases, the parents or guardians should be held responsible for their children’s behavior. Often, such “accidents” are swept under the rug and lead to so many single mothers nowadays. If there were a commensurate sanction against parents who allow these things to happen, then there would be less of such things happening.

In older times, pregnancies led to marriages. It legitimized the relationship and oftentimes caused couples to live and grow together to become mature parents. The social controls were much stronger and more effective because the degree of responsibility and accountability expected of every individual was much higher then. Today, we have lost that sense of integrity toward oneself and toward others.

Finally, our spiritual awareness – particularly our fear of God and His punishment – has diminished to such an extent that we do not even pay heed to our laws. Corruption in every level of society is but a symptom of the ongoing social and moral decay. We have not established our children’s lives upon a strong moral foundation of solid divine teachings, thereby leaving them ill-prepared to face the threats and challenges of mature living. (Church-going, in general, no longer provides the social and spiritual deterrent to immoral behavior. Something more essential is needed to reverse the trend.) Without such moorings, they find themselves being carried by their passions and the prodding of their peers like spineless slugs.

Young actors and actresses who parade on-screen or on-stage, blinded by the glare of stardom and glamour are some of the people who become most-prone victims to immoral behavior. Their exposure to such utter lack of social control (and self-control as well) makes them easy pickings for wicked exploiters. And we know these shady characters are there operating in some dark, filthy corners of showbiz corridors.

Should not talent managers, producers, directors and movie and TV networks be held responsible and accountable – in the same way that parents should be – for the failure of some of their wards to abide by strict moral and social standards? Is a pregnant actress simply a victim of her own frailty or a product of a well-orchestrated albeit unadvertised program to orient our children to a way of life and a way of thinking which makes them moral weaklings?

Notice how liquor companies now bankroll young and innocent-looking stars to endorse their products? Or how seductive, porn-oriented magazines convince teenage stars to bare themselves before the cameras? While parents and social groups find ways to prevent such blatant exploitation, the business-people continue stashing away their booty. Decent and moral people who are helpless in protecting their children from so much trash raise their hands in desperation. Some simply smile and dance to the tune of the times.

In spite of the obvious desire of producers to instill moral values in local movie and TV scripts, we see in the actual lives of some celebrities the propensity to live “abnormal” lives without fear of being held legally or even socially liable. Their lifestyles of popularity and wealth (an almost a foregone choice as opposed to obscure poverty) have made them role-models for many innocent kids who put their hopes and dreams on becoming like their idols. Not even their idols’ worst mistakes or sins can topple them from their pedestals.

Remember Mel Gibson? After raking in his millions with his landmark movie, “The Passion of the Christ”, he got caught driving under the influence of alcohol and even cursing Jews when he was arrested. 80% of those interviewed said the offense did not affect their decision to watch Gibson’s movies. Shows you how many people thought how innocuous the deed was to them. Yes, Gibson apologized and eventually submitted himself to a rehabilitation program. Here, we know of so many drunken drivers every night who are never even accosted by policemen. (I don’t think we even have the structure to prevent speeding along EDSA. We used to have highway patrolmen decades ago.) And so, we hear often of celebrities involved in muggings and altercations but rarely hear of any of them ever convicted or punished. That fact alone convinces our youth that popularity “does pay”. In Hollywood as in Manila, they do so in more ways than one.

What do we do with these people who disregard our written and unwritten laws?

We cannot expect our political leaders to hail parents and all these media practitioners to court (or to a senate hearing – heaven forbid) to answer for their failures to raise up or train their wards according to the timeless rules of decency and propriety. That would be like the tree-and-fruit syndrome: Which is rotten, the tree or the fruit? Perhaps, we all deserve to suffer the fate of what society is going through – broken marriages, corruption, immorality, criminality and impending social chaos.

We do not wish to paint a negative picture of our society but we cannot find the reason to paint a rosy picture of it either. We seem to simply follow what happens in Hollywood where the rich, young and famous celebrities live lives of wild abandon. Unfortunately, we see and know where we are headed for but fly at such a speed that we can no longer stop. Before we get there, let us decide to slam on the brakes and get off the road to oblivion. For our children’s sake and for our children’s children’s sake.

(Photo above: The family is the living cell of the human society. Break it and you destroy a living body.)