“Talk Sense to a Fool and He Calls you Foolish” by Joseph Prud’homme

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When the moral perversity of the Hollywood culture-crats is bemoaned by modern liberals, I can’t help but exclaim, in the same way, Dionysus replied to Pentheus in the classic play The Bacchae: wisdom is foolish—most especially to a fool.

How foolish it was to think the very same men who gave us Magic Mike and Bad Moms—obscene filth with degraded trash on nearly every scene—could be paragons of moral virtue. Sleaze is what sleaze does. Only the fool fails to see.

Yet, mugged by recalcitrant reality (to paraphrase Irving Kristol), liberalism’s leading lights now denounce the predations of Harvey Weinstein and similarly sleazy scoundrels. But, I hasten to ask, how can liberals denounce with moral or intellectual consistency the depraved actions of Weinstein and his Hollywood hoodlums yet still praise the vile porn these men push in the malls and cineplexes, from Seattle to Sarasota? They can do so only by becoming even greater fools.

The greatest of fools, in fact.

Indeed, it was Chelsea Clinton’s favorite hack-site, Common Sense Media—a Hollywood-celebrating “review” rag purporting to “improve[e] the media landscape for kids and families”—that suborned moms to see the disgusting skin flick Bad Christmas Moms 2 with their teenage daughters. Yet Chelsea Clinton lionizes the (often quite necessary) #Metoo advocacy ascendant in the cultural zeitgeist.

It’s high time liberals not only decry the sexual perversities of the men who run the Hollywood movie houses, but also decry the very filth these men spew in theatres across the country. To condemn one without the other is to be blind to the toxic culture Hollywood pedals—and the negative consequences the smut they merchandize has on our nation’s moral conscience.

The pop-Media moguls and all the politicos dependent on their ill-gotten cash will no doubt cast me a prude for asserting a tight nexus between the smut these men pander and the vice these ogres live. However, the social science data on mainstream smut is staggering. Social psychologist Ross O’Hara, for example, has documented that highly sexualized content—especially when created or viewed in a mainstream setting and in the normalized context of a close circle of friends—has a powerful impact on one’s sense of propriety and forges sexual scripts in the minds of makers and viewers that heighten risks for aggressive and offensive behavior.

These men on the tops of the Hollywood Hills scarcely do much more than rehash smut upon smut upon smut. That that they should be smutty scumbags themselves only heightens a truism we all used to know, before these Titans of Titillation convinced us otherwise: “monkey see”—your mother, your minister, your teacher knew too well—“monkey do.” Indeed, it was no unctuous preachiness that led St. Paul to instruct all individuals of moral seriousness to “set one’s eyes on higher things.”

Proverbs, moreover, tells us that “doing wrong is like a joke to a fool.” “Oh, it’s all escapist fun; it’s simply raunchy humor”:

The last refuge of a Hollywood porn pusher—and a sexual harasser—or worse. Proverbs, however, also reminds us that “the wise will inherit honor, but fools only get disgrace.”

Better words scarcely have been spoken.

Joseph Prud’homme is a professor at Washington College, and founder of the school’s Institute for the Study of Religion, Politics, and Culture. He lives with his wife and family in Easton, Maryland. 

Letters to Editor

  1. Robert A. Potter says:

    I assume that Dr. Prud’homme voted for Trump and his pristine moral history–and, if he had the chance, might have voted for Moore in Alabama.

    So liberalism is bad, conservatism is good–from a moral perspective? And from a professor at Washington College?

    We were considering recommending Washington for a grandson, but if this is an example of the caliber of instruction that is available, perhaps second thoughts seem in order.”

    • Joseph Prud'homme says:

      I’m delighted my short piece has elicited a hearty response. There is an old cliché among professors, when responding to an unfavorable book review: “I loved the review. It just wasn’t of the book I wrote!” I think the old cliché applies here.

      It’s difficult for me to see how I could be accused of supporting Trump—a man who has confessed to sexually sleazy behavior, or Roy Moore, who, though he professes innocence, seems to have committed the same. Sleaze is as sleaze does, I recall writing.

      I also recall mentioning that “politicos” are involved, as recipients of the Hollywood Titans’ ill-gotten cash. I never mentioned “liberal” politicos. Indeed, it is Donald Trump who elevated to the Secretary of Treasury a man who was deeply immersed in the Hollywood scene—Steven Mnuchin.

      Liberals, however, occupy without a doubt the highest echelons of the Hollywood elite, while also being at the very vanguard of #Metoo advocacy (quite necessary, I point out).

      Liberals need to be consistent and condemn the soft core porn peddled by the Titans of Titillation, given the social science data assembled by scholars such as Ross O’Hara. But conservatives must be so as well. It’s consistency that’s needed, whether from the left or the right.

      But the consistency of critique, however, is a second-order value. Far better would be for the Captains of Concupiscence to reign in their smut and sleaze. That not all they produce is as vile as Bad Moms or Afternoon Delight is a truism beyond debate. But these men have penetrated the peaks of our popular culture. And he who has more, from him more is expected.

      Let’s have far less dross from the hilltops of Hollywood. Now, that’d be a Christmas present, indeed.

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