Either It’s Getting Better Or We’re Getting Worse

Looking at the chart here, Hollywood’s detractors might hope public opinion is turning against those crummy movies. No such luck. Instead, the Gallup poll from which the chart is excerpted finds strongly favorable opinion of present-day movies among the people who make or break a film at the box office. Sixty-nine percent of 18-29-year-olds believe movies are getting better, as do 50 percent of 30-39-year-olds. By contrast, 39 percent of 50-64-year-olds and 15 percent of those 65-plus said the same. Americans were less favorablydisposed toward Hollywood in 1993, when a Gallup survey found 38 percent saying movies were getting better and 50 percent saying they were getting worse. This shift partly reflects a greater tolerance of such cinematic mainstays as sex and violence. In a 1999 poll, 27 percent said they find graphic violence in movies “extremely offensive,” while 12 percent found it “not offensive at all.” In the current survey, the number finding such violence highly offensive had fallen to 18 percent and the number utterly unoffended by it had risen to 23 percent. Nudity on the big screen elicited a similar pattern: The number finding it extremely offensive dropped from 19 percent in 1999 to 11 percent this year; the number finding it not at all offensive rose from 22 percent then to 36 percent now. Opinion on such matters is volatile and could easily grow more strict. For the moment, though, movie characters can disrobe and dismember each other to their hearts’ content. It’s tempting to say the characters on screen are seldom as irksome as the ones sitting in the theater with you. But 77 percent of respondents said they’re “generally satisfied” with the behavior of their fellow moviegoers.