Reese Witherspoon thinks Hollywood has changed, and not for the better.
At the MTV Movie Awards June 5 Witherspoon won the "Generation Award", and in her speech she commented on the changes over her time in Hollywood: "I just want to say to all the girls out there, I know it's cool to be bad. I get it ... but it's also possible to make it in Hollywood without a reality show. When I came up in this business, if you made a sex tape, you were embarrassed, you hid it under your bed ... and, like, if you took naked pictures of yourself on your cell phone, you hide your face, people!"
Some have suggested that Witherspoon's remarks were a not so subtle commentary on reality TV star Kim Kardashian, whose pornographic video made headlines in 2007, and Blake Lively, who is currently caught up in a nude photograph scandal. However, regardless of the specific targets of her comments, Witherspoon's remarks ring true.
More often than not, celebrities are now known just as much for their antics off the screen than on it. In a media world where shock factor gains you more than just five minutes of fame, celebrities' personal dramas have become the stuff of entertainment, literally. Reality TV shows such as "Keeping up with the Kardashians" and "Jersey Shore" have taken over the entertainment world and celebrities who do not star in their own reality shows have to keep up with the fad by creating scandals of their own to stay in the spotlight; and the more scandalous the better.
Take the MTV Movie Awards show for example, the very same award show where Witherspoon commented on the changing face of Hollywood. Robert Pattinson, star of the hit "Twilight" series and Witherspoon's "Water for Elephants" co-star, introduced Witherspoon's award, but not without trying to shock the audience.
Pattinson mentioned a small role he had with Witherspoon in "Vanity Fair" in which he played her son, but which was cut from the final movie, then went on to talk about the recent role they shared in "Water for Elephants" in which Witherspoon and Pattinson's characters had a romantic affair. Regarding this role, Pattinson declared on live TV, "But I did f- you." He went on to further astound the audience by saying "It's not always a bad thing to have sexual chemistry with your mother," and called Witherspoon "33 percent lesbian."
Pattinson's introduction for Witherspoon was not his only stunt at the award show. Moments earlier Pattinson had won an award with "Twilight" co-star Kristen Stewart for Best Kiss and to celebrate ran into the audience and shared a kiss with male co-star Taylor Lautner. Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis joined in the scandalous fun by groping each other on stage. One thing is for certain, the headlines resulting from the MTV Movie Awards had little to do with the movies and a lot to do with the onstage shenanigans by the actors and actresses.
MTV's award show highlighted the very trend in Hollywood that Witherspoon criticized. On screen talent is not enough; personal scandal off screen has become the norm. Is it not enough that the movies these celebrities are making depict meaningless sex, violence and vulgarity, that they must reflect these behaviors in their own lives, giving the impression that they are not only okay, but also glamorous and desirable?
Unfortunately, the shock factor is not only prevalent in the acting industry, but pervades other forms of entertainment. The music world has been recently inundated with songs and videos that cross the line between what is acceptable and what is overly violent, sexual, or just flat out inappropriate. The line is not only blurred, but quickly deteriorating.
Kanye West's "Monster" music video made its debut this week, and in addition to lyrics which include 28 F-words, the video has a violent message. The video starts with a warning: "The following content is in no way to be interpreted as misogynistic or negative towards any groups of people. It is an art piece and it shall be taken as such."
West's so-called "art piece" opens revealing a dead, young girl, hanging from a ceiling in a noose, wearing nothing but underwear and heels. The video is centered around the graphic violence against and the death of the women in the video, who are often shown wearing only underwear or lying face down, naked, bloody and dead. We are warned before the video that it is to be taken as art, but the saddest thing is that violence and necrophilia would be considered "art" by anyone at all.
Rihanna's very controversial video "Man Down" also depicts and condones violence, this time towards men. The video, which the Parents Television Council (PTC) has criticized BET for airing, begins with Rihanna shooting and killing a man in "central station" who had raped her. The video has been criticized by PTC and others as supporting more violence as an appropriate reaction to violence.
But is Lady Gaga, perhaps the music industry's most controversial figure known for her outrageous style, music, and performances, who shocks the world every time a new music video is released. "Born This Way" was no different. The video opens with a graphic scene of a birth, shown in kaleidoscope images to distort it. It is narrated by Gaga, who speaks of a birth of good and evil.
Gaga says she wrote the song to comment on the issue of homosexuality: "I said, 'I want to write my freedom record. I want to write my this-is-who-the-f[***]-I-am anthem,' but I don't want it to be hidden in poetic wizardry and metaphors. I want it to be an attack, an assault on the issue because I think, especially in today's music, everything gets kind of washy sometimes and the message gets hidden in the lyrical play." Gaga's graphic message, however, was lost on no one.
It seems that today's entertainment world is unfortunately focused not on who can astonish the world with the most talent, but who can simply astonish the most people, by any means, no matter how salacious or scandalous.