Published March 01, 2003
LOS ANGELES – Are stars like Britney Spears, Tony Soprano and Martin Scorsese a threat to the country's national image?
One new study says yes. According to the study out of Boston University, Hollywood sex, violence and arrogance are causing young people around the world to despise Americans.
After questioning teens in 12 different countries, Melvin DeFleur, a communications professor at BU discovered that American entertainment was brewing a "culture of hate" among the youth of other countries.
The more American entertainment they see and hear, the more they believe Americans are dishonest, drug-abusing sex fiends, DeFleur said.
"If a teenager in Saudi Arabia sees an episode of The Sopranos, they are going to enjoy it, but the images of Americans being lewd and lawless will become imbedded in them," he said. "They are creating these dreadfully negative attitudes around the world among young people."
But some in entertainment say it's their right and in fact their goal to make their audience question societal norms.
"Anything can be misinterpreted. People can look at Christ on a cross and think, 'This is an image of murder, this is violent, this has sexual imagery in it,'" shock-rocker Marilyn Manson told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly last year for a special on violence in the media. "I think it's my job as an artist to be out there pushing people's buttons and making them question everything."
DeFleur surveyed 1,313 people ranging in from age 14 to 19. The study, "The Next Generation's Image of Americans: Attitudes and Beliefs by Teenagers in 12 Countries" was conducted in late 2002.
According to Paul Bond of The Hollywood Reporter, many Tinseltown types take the stance that entertainment is a business, and they are merely producing what the fans want.
"Most of them conclude, 'We're not responsible.' We put out entertainment for people to enjoy and it's not our problem if people watch it and get a negative image of America,'" Bond said.
And that's part of the problem, according to DeFleur who also blames the companies that make money off of the films, music and images being sent overseas.
"Mass media entertainment products are shipped all over the world by a limited number of corporations who make significant profit," he said. "They are making profit in such a way that it is creating harm for us here in the U.S., helping young folks in those societies create a culture of hate."
Bond said that many moviemakers project their own vision about the U.S. onto the big screen.
"Hollywood filmmakers do have a fairly low opinion of the U.S. and they don't mind portraying that on film," said Bond.
DeFleur, who thinks the war on terror needs to be fought on many fronts, said its time to change Hollywood's mind about the images it's producing.
Jack Valenti of the Motion Picture Association told O'Reilly that Hollywood is making strides in improving the quality of its films.
"When you make 600 movies a year, we don't have enough creative people of high quality to make 600 good movies," he said. "We're going to have a bunch of bad movies... but I think we're making real progress."
Examples of wholesome entertainment that DeFleur said he'd like emulated in today’s society are Lassie, Flipper and Leave It to Beaver --- shows that never aired "couples writhing in bed" or "saying dirty words," he said.
While it's unlikely that Hollywood will return to the days of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, DeFleur said America's image overseas needs an overhaul.
"You don’t recruit terrorists out of a country that has favorable view of Americans," he said. "They have to dislike us very intently and see us as worthless people that deserved to be harmed, and these media depictions are teaching them that."
Fox News' Amy C. Sims contributed to this report.