The Christian Broadcasting Network

Hollywoods America: The Fuel of Terrorist Hatred

By Wendy Griffith
CBN News Reporter

CBN.comBOSTON — Could there be a link between Hollywood and terrorism? A study out of Boston University says the answer is yes. The findings claim it may not be so much our American policy, but our TV programs and movies that are fueling a so-called "culture of hate" in young people around the world.

Boston University professor Dr. Melvin DeFleur, co-author of the study, said, "You can't turn on your television set on any night or go to a movie without seeing unmarried people cavorting in bed, or you can see folks with no clothes on, and so on, particularly women."

Drs. Melvin and Peggy DeFleur are both communications professors at Boston University, and they sent questionnaires to teenagers in 12 countries, including the Middle East and Asia. What they wanted to know is, how do young people overseas view Americans?

The study, "The Next Generation's Image of Americans," found that the overwhelming majority had negative feelings about Americans — in fact, very negative feelings. They believed Americans are violent, prone to criminal activity, materialistic and sexually immoral.

Why? It was not because they had actually been to America. Most of them hadn't. But rather, the study found, it was the powerful influence of American movies and television programs, sent all over the world and seen by millions of foreign teenagers.

When it came to "overall attitudes" toward Americans, Saudi Arabian teens ranked #1, with the most negative feelings about Americans. Saudi teens were followed by those in Bahrain, South Korea, Lebanon, Mexico, China, Spain, Taiwan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Italy was essentially neutral, and only the teenagers in Argentina responded favorably toward Americans.

Why should Americans be worried about the image we are projecting to young people overseas?

Melvin DeFleur explained, "Who is it that carries out terrorist acts against us? It's these young people. And not to say that everyone who watches our movies and TV is going to become a terrorist, but if you are a militant terrorist group and you have to recruit people to join your movement, this 'culture of hate' that is being created, provides a foundation for that."

Peggy DeFleur said, "They drew pictures that they wanted us to understand what we Americans can do with ourselves, they were not shy in many of their other comments of a very, very negative nature."

But how can they hate us and love our entertainment at the same time?

Mr. DeFleur said, "The kind of classic statement about it is, ‘We hate you, go home Americans, but send us Baywatch!’ And so there is that love-hate relationship. They love these entertainment experiences they get from our popular culture, but they don't like us as a people."

But not every foreign teenager hates America. It is quite the contrary in countries like India where young people flock to movie theaters, eager to see their favorite American actors on the big-screen.

"My favorite actor, Arnold, Arnold Schwartzneggar. I like his body," one Indian girl said. Another girl said, "I like Richard Gere, Sean Connery, George Clooney, Hugh Grant very much."

Another Indian teen said, "I like the action, I like the romance, it's very different from the Indian movies basically."

But even though they like American movies, there are things they don't like about them.

"I would say the nudity, they are pretty open to that. That culture's different than ours, so we don't accept that. That's it," one teen said.

But accept it or not, it is having an impact. That’s what Mary Thomas, principal of the Vani Vidhalaye Indian school, said. She called the Hollywood and cable television influence "dangerous" and a threat to traditional Indian culture.

Thomas said, "So westernization is removing the Indian culture, that's what I feel. And maybe in the future, after our generation's over, I'm thinking of my age, they may not be knowing any of the values that we had."

One mother named Grace Pinto says she feels uncomfortable watching some American television shows with her family. "Sex scenes, certain scenes which are coming, which we can't even imagine — and for the children it is bad at this age — we feel that should not be depicted," she said.

Pinto’s two daughters say they enjoy a lot of American programs but have a hard time identifying with shows like "Friends" which glorify premarital sex. "’Yeah, it's ok to sleep around’ — It's hard to accept it because that's not India, that's not us," said Grace’s daughter Snehal.

So, what, if anything, can be done to change America's perception overseas? First, critics like the DeFleurs say Hollywood and others who produce these shows would have to understand the consequences of what they are doing, and then care enough to show some restraint.

But the DeFleurs say that is not likely to happen. Not only does Hollywood make big bucks exporting American movies and shows overseas, but a lot of the "graphic images" they use are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

"I would argue perhaps that showing young folks in bed cavorting may not be political speech, which was the intention of the framers of our original Constitution and its Bill of Rights," Mr. DeFleur said. "But unless they're willing to draw back from those depictions, I don't see that we can intervene with them."

But some are more optimistic. They say we can improve America's image overseas by affecting Hollywood's bottom-line. In other words, being more selective with what we pay to see at the box-office will send a message heard not only in Hollywood, but around the world.

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