Dear Hollywood: Marriage Isn’t the Problem, You Are

Dear Hollywood,

I’m used to your dirty tricks and warped sense of reality by now, the way you suck people into your facade of glitz and glamour. I grew up watching my favorite Disney stars turn into animals with no sense of morality or decency, while you looked on and did nothing. I’ve watched kids who had a future resort to drugs, sex, alcohol, and lawlessness under your watch while all you did was lament “it’s just a phase” and kept looking on, doing nothing. Your fame is the Holy Grail of America, the thing regular kids aspire to, but kill themselves trying to attain. Everything about you is glittering and dark and filthy. You are everybody who seeks you, gets lost in you, and stays stuck in your merry-go-round of recklessness and rehab.

You’re an example, but you are the worst example.

This morning I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw Antonio Banderas’ name pop up on the “trending” bar. I remember his fearless feats as Zorro and his paternal commitment to his family in the Spy Kids movies. Now I see that after 18 years of marriage, he and his real life wife are giving up on each other.

The headlines read as follows:
“Get more details on her split”
“sad to hear”
“another Hollywood couple bites the dust”
“they have separated”
“she filed, citing ‘irreconcilable differences'”
“One of Hollywood’s longest lasting marriages has come to an end”

In a week’s time, you won’t care anymore. The media won’t care anymore. You’ll all have gotten your kicks from the fact that a marriage three times shorter than the strongest marriages I have seen has ended. And then you’ll say, “It’s their life, not yours. It’s none of your business. They can do what they want.”

This is the garbage you feed us. Every single day, another Hollywood marriage dies with the epitaph “So sad, but now they’re free and everyone can get on with their lives.” Every single day, celebrities are saying, with no irony, “If traditional marriage is so great, then why is the divorce rate 50%, huh?” Every single day, kids are turning on the television and ingesting what to them has become a normal theme: if you don’t like your spouse, you can kick them out. Easy. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been together. Your time together can be erased, ripped off like a Band-Aid. It doesn’t matter if you do it by cheating or not. It’s your life.

This is a message that is degrading and insulting, one that we are fed constantly. Traditional marriage isn’t the problem with marriage, but the marriage rhetoric that gets a voice is, and as the loudest body of people in this country, Hollywood, you should be ashamed and disgusted at the things you are saying.

Your norm has become everybody else’s norm. In one day, I can get the following messages from society:

“You’re only beautiful if your body looks like Kate Upton’s.”
“You’re perfect if you weigh 500 pounds.”
“No man should tell you to smile or should demand anything from you. You’re a woman, and that’s insulting. You don’t need men to do anything in life.”
“If you don’t like your relationship, just cheat. Go for what you want.”
“Don’t cheat, or you’ll be treated like scum.”
“Go out in the streets wearing whatever you want. It’s your body and you should be proud of it.”

Society tells me to fit a mold, or I’m worthless. Society tells me to break that mold, or I’m a coward. Society is so consumed with telling me to respect myself, focus on myself, do whatever my self would like, that they don’t realize how important relationships are to me, time with other people is to me, how much those things define me just as much as I define me. I am nothing without the people in my life, and yet, everybody seems so consumed with eliminating them. That is more degrading to me than anything.

Hollywood tells me to strip away 18, 40, 20, or two years of my life as if they were wasted, as if another person can be blotted out of my existence at the snap of my fingers. Hollywood tells me that marriages are meaningless anyway, that they are boring and ensnaring, that once you reach that point where love changes from something loud and magical to something solid and quiet, there’s no point in staying. Hollywood tells me to have no patience with my future spouse, to not work through things with him, to treat him like he’s not worth that. Hollywood tells me that marriage is a problem and then has the gall to argue that if 50% or more spouses divorce in this country, it’s obviously the fault of the institution.

It’s not marriage, Hollywood, it’s you. And I for one am sick of your lies.

No love,

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  1. Last night I watched a video clip of Marlon Brando's refusal to accept the Best Actor award for The Godfather because of the way the film industry treated native Americans. Marlon Brando was the third actor to refuse an academy award. I walked into work this morning imagining in my mind if all of the winners for an entire ceremony chose to refuse their awards. We'd need a cause big enough, and we'd need to conspire with all of the nominees beforehand.

    The sensationalism and lack of respect for people and relationships that you (and I) lament would be a worthy cause. If only we could convince some actors to take it up. Rend our coats and call it the Title of Matrimony (ba-dut-chsss).

  2. I love your writing Ari, you've got it right on this subject. The most significant choice we are going to make in this life is our spouse. We need to use all the faculties that we have to be right about it. TV and the Movies just see it as another tool to get our attention, like car chases and shoot outs. Except divorce ruins lives just as surely as bullets or whatever.
    There was a movie 1982 called "Shoot the Moon." It was about a family that gets a divorce. Ellen Goodman wrote a op-ed piece about it and its treatment of divorce on the couple. The wife gets the kids (4 kids?) a house, the new car and doesn't have to work. Oh yah, that's reality…NOT!

  3. There has been a bit of a Hollywood…shall we say “counter-culture’? Jimmy Stewart married Gloria Hatrick McLean in 1949 and they stayed married until her death in 1994. Mrs. Stewart was active on the boards of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn., Natural History Museum, African Wildlife Foundation and St. John’s Medical Center, and was a regular at charity dinners, dances and other events supporting those groups.

    She shared her husband’s interests in skeet shooting, fishing, animals and travel. A fan magazine in 1985 called their partnership “Dream Factory’s Outstanding Marriage.”

    Robert Wise (edited CITIZEN CANE, won Academy Awards for directing WEST SIDE STORY and THE SOUND OF MUSIC) married actress Patricia Doyle in 1942 and stayed married until her death from cancer in 1975. On January 29, 1977, Robert Wise married Millicent Franklin, and again, remained married to her until her his death September 14, 2005.

    So the good news is that it IS possible to be IN Hollywood, but not OF Hollywood.

    The bad news is…is that very few, if any, people inside Hollywood (or outside Hollywood) seem to be interested in following their marriage examples.

    Hollywood chooses to be built on feeding ego’s and catering to selfish whims and gratifying both.

    Love, by contrast, is built on selflessness and sacrifice.

    These principles, among others, need to be taught in motion pictures as well.

    Ari, have you ever read The Gospel Vision of the Arts?

    It was the July 1977 First Presidency Message by President Spencer W. Kimball.

    Quote: “Members of the Church should be peers or superiors to any others in natural ability, extended training, plus the Holy Spirit which should bring them light and truth. With hundreds of “men of God” and their associates so blessed, we have the base for an increasingly efficient and worthy corps of talent.”

    Continuing: “Could there be among us embryo poets and novelists like Goethe (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749–1832)? Have we explored as much as we should? Of the creator of Faust, Emerson said, “The old eternal genius that built the world had confided itself more to this man than to any other.” But Goethe was not the greatest nor the last. There may be many Goethes among us even today, waiting to be discovered. Inspired Saints will write great books and novels and biographies and plays.

    Can we not find equal talent to those who gave us A Man for All Seasons, Doctor Zhivago, Ben Hur? This latter book I read when a small boy and many times I have returned to it. Critics might not agree with me, but I feel that it is a great story. My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music and such have pleased their millions, but I believe we can improve on them.”

    Another quote: “It has been said that many of the great artists were perverts or moral degenerates. In spite of their immorality they became great and celebrated artists. What could be the result if discovery were made of equal talent in men who were clean and free from the vices, and thus entitled to revelations?”

    More: “Then there is Shakespeare (1564–1616). Everybody quotes Shakespeare. This English poet and dramatist was prodigious in his productions. His Hamlet and Othello and King Lear and Macbeth are only preludes to the great mass of his productions. Has anyone else ever been so versatile, so talented, so remarkable in his art? And yet could the world produce only one Shakespeare?”

    Still More:”Our writers, our motion picture specialists, with the inspiration of heaven, should tomorrow be able to produce a masterpiece which would live forever. Our own talent, obsessed with dynamism from a CAUSE, could put into such a story life and heartbeats and emotions and love and pathos, drama, suffering, fear, courage; and they could put into it the great leader, the mighty modern Moses who led a people farther than from Egypt to Jericho, who knew miracles as great as the stream from the rock at Horeb, manna in the desert, giant grapes, rain when needed, battles won against great odds.

    Take a Nicodemus and put Joseph Smith’s spirit in him, and what do you have? Take a da Vinci or a Michelangelo or a Shakespeare and give him a total knowledge of the plan of salvation of God and personal revelation and cleanse him, and then take a look at the statues he will carve and the murals he will paint and the masterpieces he will produce. Take a Handel with his purposeful effort, his superb talent, his earnest desire to properly depict the story, and give him inward vision of the whole true story and revelation, and what a master you have!”

    Finally: “The architect Daniel H. Burnham said:

    Make no little plans; they have no magic [there] to stir men’s blood
    And probably themselves will not be realized.
    Make big plans; aim high and hope and work,
    Remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die,
    But long after we are gone,
    Will be a living thing,
    Asserting itself with ever-growing insistency.
    Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things
    That would stagger us.
    Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty.”