Feature Article of Monday, 26 March 2012

Columnist: Sarpong, Gideon Amoako

When an Insider Impugns...

"Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul."

Did the young folks hear that? Well, it’s better to reread it instead of scoffing or smarting, only slowly this time around for a better understanding.

Having done that, are you ready Sister Superstar, to reckon with an interesting fact? Then be reliably informed that this disturbing indictment on Hollywood – a “major exporter of American values and culture” – came not from the lips of some snobbish, hate-filled preacher preaching fire and brimstone. It came not from an intolerant prude with backward or weird moral inclinations. And it was definitely not the moralizations of a fastidious old-timer.

The accuser was a favourite, a friend and no foe to this famous fraternity. She was an insider (more specifically an actress) and her nude calendar shoot the pioneering snapshot of Hugh Heifner’s playboy magazine. Actually, Hollywood was her generous employer. As the 20th century’s most famous international sex icon, she helped build an empire originally thought impossible but later touted as “one of the most amazing financial success stories in journalistic history – the aggressive, open marketing of pornographic sex.”

That Marilyn Monroe is here unhappy with the fleeting interest of Hollywood for her fleeting “physical voluptuousness” is a daring but excusable deduction. At least, common logic allows such common conclusion. Perhaps, she observed an undue concentration on the prospect of gain from her body to the overlooking of her immortal soul’s interest. This is an excellent case of a frank insider criticism, something of a rare, terse but privileged information which if flippantly ignored, would not augur well for any people caught up in the intense struggle of asserting their distinctiveness. Its heartfelt consideration is the more needful on the part of modern Ghanaians, especially our aspiring stars who are fast becoming adepts at the blind imitation of anything from abrokyire.

The Ghanaian movie industry undeniably cherishes Hollywood and looks to her as a paragon of excellence in the motion picture industry. Her technological sophistication, without doubt, is one of the strong points of this reverent admiration. Look at the names adopted and you’d know where the admiration of the Ghanaian movie industry lies. Although an unrivalled point of reference in technological excellence, Hollywood’s moral staminais a shame to her existence. This, her admirers overlook and subsequently imitate without caring to shun her untoward moral aspects that celebrate the gun, greed and gratuitous sex.

One of the sure distastes of wannabes caught up in this western civilisation is the distaste of anything that resembles old norms and incorporates strong moral values. This they call unnecessary conservatism –an unfounded fear of the “new and untried” with great potentials for stifling creativity when harboured.The idea that it must be better if it is newer succinctly sums up the belief and approach of this eye-opening revolution.Consider the movies, music and the fashion and you would see that there is this tacit and popular assent to the absurdity that anything is okay or creative if it has been done before in the West. The explanation that “even America [the west] is doing it” constitutes part of a barrage of silencing clichés that have been flung at those who have dared to protest.

In Threats to Ghana’s Security (Daily Graphic feature, November 2010), Ahumah Ocansey added a new, enlightening and interesting twist to the holistic understanding of national security. I have no option than to wholeheartedly agree with his assertion that “any foreign value or morality that creates conflict within society and that tends to corrupt the moral and spiritual order” is not just an affront to moral and religious sensibilities but a threat to national security. What am I hearing? Is he saying that an increasing sexual permissiveness jeopardises a nation’s security? Nothing could be farther from the truth, even though we cannot be so sure whether these views were seriously considered by the general public.

To ignore commenting on the more marketable issues of tit- for- tat party politics and rather challenge the prevailing moral norm is to risk popular applause. That piece may be sidelined by a profit-conscious editor, for the obvious reason of its inconformity with progressive liberal-mindedness. It may also be condemned as a subjective treatise with irrelevant religious notions, as if Christianity, with its society-transforming record, is antagonistic to national development. The writer may also become a mocking example of intellectual in-sophistication. Social and political scribes would sneeringly marvel and wish he knew better. So you see brother, there is so much to be lost when one acquiesces with William J. Benneth, and boldly declares that the present society seems almost dedicated to corruption – especially of the young. That patriotic American was right; “the spirit that pervades the arts and entertainment of the West today is shaping a culture of which only the degenerate can be proud.

As it stands now, the old is paving way for the trial of the new and its subsequent adoption. Individualism and the craving for unrestrained personal freedom have already dealt a fatal blow to that strong restraining traditional institution called family. The strong bonds of our local families are being strained almost to the point of exhaustion. Physical energy has confessedly submitted (a good development nonetheless!) to the superiority of automation. The television with its command of popular patronage offers more ease and entertainment than the library. Thus, the increase in its viewers is no mystery to be unravelled. TV stations are currently caught in the race of enhancing their competitiveness through innovative broadcasts of soap operas having no relevance to national morality and outlook. Yes, things are changing, but there is too much sensational emphasis on the erotic. That is the problem! And nuclear stockpiles are nothing compared to this in terms of its potential for destroying our nation.

The influence of countless individuals by the movie industry is plain for all to see. That efficient tutor called present-day movie is familiar with effective tutoring techniques. Its message is simple and straightforward: inordinate pleasure, better still indiscriminate sex, is fun, and those not participating are missing, miserably missing a lot. The gun is the best arbiter of disputes and its employment the easiest way to right wrongs or settle scores. Seeking evidence? Check the storylines in the movies being premiered of late. It is the same old emphasis on casanova intrigues and violence. Nothing has changed as far as the stereotypical depiction of the woman as a sex machine is concerned. Are we not all familiar with the theme of lawlessness in movies and music videos? A young man takes the law into his hands by gunning down a rival or an unfaithful partner. The message? Those who ascribe to the instant solution of the gun are winners; they run things, things do not run them! Scenes of violence and nudity have been effectively employed to enhance the teaching process.

The desecration and flaunting of the marital bed, long regarded as "honourable” and expected to be “undefiled," is a creative result of this method or teaching. It is not an exaggeration to say that your class five kid presently knows more about the issues of the bed than homework. The so-called attempt at demystifying sex has only succeeded in recommending condoms rather than abstinence to boys and girls. Boys are being encouraged to play men and girls women by this necessary and realistic process of demystification. Do you know of anything that constitutes a surer recipe for disaster than this? I bet you don’t!

Talk of the values that frown on nudity, greed and immorality; the values that subtly shield the gullible child from the deceptive world of sensuality; and I will tell you that they are conspicuously missing from the lesson plans of many modern high-class Ghanaian movies. The celebrated movie stars are those who are willing to get a little real, i.e. take up (as someone said) fiili fiili roles by embracing nudity and explicit roles. The troubling scruple of that “still small voice” with all its moral inhibitions is ineffective at commanding compliance here. Success for such people knows no bounds as they become stars overnight, going places reserved exclusively for the powerful, governing class. Even the tattoos on their skins become multi-million news items.

Are you beautiful and elegant? Want overnight fame? Dreaming of holidaying in South Africa? How about cashing some Ghana cedis in the thousands category? Then join the audition train for a rewarding experience! The not-so-sexy are not eligible and will forever remain so. As for book nerds, sorry, you are losers; real arrant losers. Scantily dressed young women are currently being paraded as epitomes of feminine beauty and intelligence. The proliferation of beauty pageants and reality TV shows and the high rewards of participation nudge you from delusion and to a discovery that learning, in spite of the commending rhetoric it receives, is a bad paymaster. I think young ladies ought to be told that they can positively impact society without having to appear in scanty apparel for ‘appraisals’ before a panel of judges.

I am amply convinced brother, that the time to put up a resolute and wholehearted opposition to the ruthless “tyranny of the box-office” is now. We are highly capable of remonstrating against the rhyming obscenities being churned out on a daily basis. With our values and moral norms dangerously at stake, we must begin to hold our television stations responsible for the visual junk they successfully smuggle everyday into living rooms. Also, a widespread boycott of the countless sex-deifying movies and music can be effective at bringing the almighty showbiz industry to order.

Ghana stands as a sure hope for the world in the next wave of a worldwide moral revolution. We would do well not to disappoint the multitudes looking up to us. Let us not be ashamed to reiterate to our young adults the good old truth that sex within marriage is a blessing and outside marriage – a baleful bane. Yes, let us consistently iterate this, for there is nothing primitive and counterproductive about it. After all, an intimate connection between premarital sex and marriage instability has been discovered. Just ask Professor Dean Busby and his team of scientists at the Brigham Young University. Our children must know this, even as we tell them that public fame is not the same as personal fulfilment; and that any bargain that promises a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for an individual’s soul is a bad deal: a gargantuan exploitation of the body at the expense of the soul.

Gideon Amoako Sarpong / University of Ghana / aca_education at yahoo / 0243354091