The movie business has struggled throughout 2020 and for the sake of the many creatives and professionals who rely on the business, I hope it comes back strong as soon as the pandemic subsides. However, like many other things that were forever altered by the pandemic, I hope that some things in Hollywood don’t return to the pre-virus normal. Specifically, I hope that Hollywood finds an appreciation for stable families that abandoned decades ago.
As I wrote for the Institute for Family Studies around Oscar season in early 2020, Hollywood has a tendency to ignore stable families. I wrote:
…the movie industry will gather to participate in the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony, along with a U.S. audience of approximately 30 million television viewers. There will be many things on display—elegance, talent, and creativity among them. But one thing will be conspicuously absent from most of the art being celebrated: the depiction of happily married families. Only one of the films nominated in the best picture category, Little Women, features a happy, stable marriage.
From The Hollywood Family Paradox: How Moguls’ Morals Dictate Media Content, by James McQuivey, Ph.D.
The explanation for this is not as simple as it seems, which I explain in the article by sharing research I presented at the 1997 annual conference of the International Communication Association. The fact is, the people who make these movies are motivated as much by impressing other people in Hollywood as they are by earning box office success. And what do those other people want? To live the mogul life, unfettered by commitments to marriage and family. (Read the article for a little-known origin of the term “media mogul,” and how applicable it is to these individuals.) The highest-profile of these moguls are Harvey Weinsteins in sheep’s clothing. If you want to pitch that kind of producer a story, how likely are you to propose a movie or TV show about a hardworking family that overcomes obstacles in pursuit of a humble but meaningful life? You can guess by the percent of projects that depict such families that you wouldn’t even bother. Instead you’d make a Marriage Story or some other show that depicts marriage as a futile, deceit-ridden, even harmful enterprise.
Which is exactly what we get from Hollywood. What this means for you is that whether you realize it or not, you might think things about marriage that aren’t true. Like that most marriages end in divorce (they don’t) or that marriage is always harmful to women (it isn’t) or that children that experience divorce when growing up don’t suffer any lasting consequences (they do). The truth is that marriage itself isn’t perfect and marriages are not perfect. But follow the statistics and you find that marriage does far more good than harm for those who engage in it, the children raised in those marriages, and the broader communities in which those families live. That’s part of why the Born to Marry project exists, to set the record straight with objective data. Stay tuned for more of the research as I roll it out.