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The inversion of morality


slaytonf
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I caught the end of the Norma Shearer version of The Last of Mrs. Cheyney this morning.  Watching the characters spar about blackmail around the breakfast table, I ruminated on how impossible it was to write such delicious dialog today, scandal such as that contained in the letter written to her not any more being something to contemplate with shock or dread.  Indeed, it would be sought out as something to give one's facebook page or blog a high profile.  Watching the studio-era films on TCM provides a sharp contrast with today's values.  Even in the so-called pre-code era, almost all the movies ended with a wink and a pirouette, endorsing conventional values.  Ah, the legacy of the rock-and-roll generation.  I am afraid what we have gained is not liberation, but license.  We still remain as immature a culture as we ever were, but have simply removed the repression and public censure.  So heists don't have to fail, foul language is a part of normal discourse, and adulteresses don't have to die.

 

But really, has human nature changed so much in that short span of years?  Mmm, I think not.  I think it has been chugging along as it always has as long as there were humans, with the same levels of lust, infidelity, generosity, greed, honesty, betrayal, selflessness, and the whole gamut human virtue and vice.  Rather, it is the public morality we have draped it in that has changed, from the yards of heavy cloth of earlier times, to the tight-fitting and scanty covering we have today.

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I caught the end of the Norma Shearer version of The Last of Mrs. Cheyney this morning.  Watching the characters spar about blackmail around the breakfast table, I ruminated on how impossible it was to write such delicious dialog today, scandal such as that contained in the letter written to her not any more being something to contemplate with shock or dread.  Indeed, it would be sought out as something to give one's facebook page or blog a high profile.  Watching the studio-era films on TCM provides a sharp contrast with today's values.  Even in the so-called pre-code era, almost all the movies ended with a wink and a pirouette, endorsing conventional values.  Ah, the legacy of the rock-and-roll generation.  I am afraid what we have gained is not liberation, but license.  We still remain as immature a culture as we ever were, but have simply removed the repression and public censure.  So heists don't have to fail, foul language is a part of normal discourse, and adulteresses don't have to die.

 

But really, has human nature changed so much in that short span of years?  Mmm, I think not.  I think it has been chugging along as it always has as long as there were humans, with the same levels of lust, infidelity, generosity, greed, honesty, betrayal, selflessness, and the whole gamut human virtue and vice.  Rather, it is the public morality we have draped it in that has changed, from the yards of heavy cloth of earlier times, to the tight-fitting and scanty covering we have today.

 

Has things changed?  We have been compared to the Roman Empire.

 

the-decline-and-fall-of-the-roman-empire

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That can be a way to look at it.  But the levels of social "decency" has always shifted over the years.and differed from culture to culture.  But in reality, many heists DON'T fail while many others do.  Adultresses die as frequently as adulterers.  These days it's not uncommon for parents to share residence with each other with three or more of their children for several years before getting married( if at all).  We thankfully haven't reached the point where child molestation and/or sexual activity with children has become acceptable.  So, there's THAT...I suppose.....

 

Sepiatone

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Watching the studio-era films on TCM provides a sharp contrast with today's values.  Even in the so-called pre-code era, almost all the movies ended with a wink and a pirouette, endorsing conventional values.  Ah, the legacy of the rock-and-roll generation.  I am afraid what we have gained is not liberation, but license.  We still remain as immature a culture as we ever were, but have simply removed the repression and public censure.  So heists don't have to fail, foul language is a part of normal discourse, and adulteresses don't have to die.

 

But really, has human nature changed so much in that short span of years?  Mmm, I think not.  I think it has been chugging along as it always has as long as there were humans, with the same levels of lust, infidelity, generosity, greed, honesty, betrayal, selflessness, and the whole gamut human virtue and vice.  Rather, it is the public morality we have draped it in that has changed, from the yards of heavy cloth of earlier times, to the tight-fitting and scanty covering we have today.

 

All this is pretty obvious, but what's the point?   That we should re-institute the production code of the Breen years?  Or that we should all just dress more modestly and curse only in private?

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I find most of the rant to be folly;  There have been gains (e.g. better treatment of indivisuals that are not the 'same' as the primary group;   different races,  class,  gender,  etc....).   This is true progress  (well, unless one supports those 'good old days'). 

 

There have been set backs but most of this is due to more exposure;  i.e.   we don't know if these actions are taking place at a higher frequency or they are just being exposed more.

 

Then there are some new things like sexing which is just misguided youth not mature enough to handle things;  this takes place with each generation but with new or revised behaviors.

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I think there are fewer blackmailable actions today then there were

seventy or eighty years ago, though I suppose there are still a

few left, like embezzlement. Morals are very dependent on time,

place, and culture, and that's just the way it is. When I do something,

it's liberation, when someone else does something, it's license.

 

The Roman Empire comparison, in various configurations, has been

around for ages, and is pretty ridiculous, but will be around far into the

future. I wouldn't pay much attention to it.

 

I love your comment about liberation and license.   It relates to something else I was going to post;  Watching illegal movies on You-Tube or making illegal copies of music.     I'm sure there are people that complain that the sky is falling with regards to morals,  but they have no problem doing those illegal activities.    Hey,  it is liberation!   

 

One other point;  Crime is way down in most places and especially the two biggest cities in the USA;  NYC and LA.    If crime is a measure of how moral a society is than most places in the USA are trending in the right direction.   

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 We have been compared the the Roman Empire.

 

 

 

 

By whom?

 

By people who usually have a nebulous grasp on the subject of History, and who wish to express the mistaken belief that the Roman Empire's collapse was primarily predicated upon some idea of a decay in the moral fiber of its society. Yep, a concept quite often offered up by a segment of our present society often referred to as "Bible-Thumpers". That's who.

 

(...any other questions?) ;)

 

LOL

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Just a variation on the old saying that one person's meat is another person's poison.

Things that we approve of are freedom, things we disapprove of are called license.

But there is also the fact that it is important to understand that one of the consequences

of freedom is the possibility of license, so we should be willing to accept that.

 

DANG, that was well said, Vautrin!

 

(...I'm gonna start usin' this from now on whenever some idiot starts mouthin' off about how "they're takin' all his 'freedoms' away...that is IF ya don't mind, anyway) ;)

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Just as long as it doesn't appear as part of an illegal video on

You Tube, which I can't really complain about as I watch what

I assume are illegal videos on YT all the time.

 

Just for the record,  I wasn't saying that those the watch illegal videos on YT are immoral.    I was only saying that I find people that feel certain things immoral,  that I view as moral,  often come up with some lame excuse related to YT.    (but hey I wrote software and people would steal that and come up with lame excuses for doing so ,  so I admit this type of thing bugs me). 

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Just as long as it doesn't appear as part of an illegal video on

You Tube, which I can't really complain about as I watch what

I assume are illegal videos on YT all the time.

 

Now ya see, THAT was what REALLY caused the fall of the Roman Empire, ya know!

 

No, of course they didn't have videos back then, but it was all those traveling road shows of Greek Tragedies they'd put on in those outdoor amphitheaters back then and then afterward failings to send any of the proceeds to "Roman Actors Equity"!!!

 

(...betcha didn't know that, did ya!) ;)

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Watching the studio-era films on TCM provides a sharp contrast with today's values.  Even in the so-called pre-code era, almost all the movies ended with a wink and a pirouette, endorsing conventional values.  Ah, the legacy of the rock-and-roll generation.  I am afraid what we have gained is not liberation, but license.  We still remain as immature a culture as we ever were, but have simply removed the repression and public censure.  So heists don't have to fail, foul language is a part of normal discourse, and adulteresses don't have to die.

 

But really, has human nature changed so much in that short span of years?  Mmm, I think not.  I think it has been chugging along as it always has as long as there were humans, with the same levels of lust, infidelity, generosity, greed, honesty, betrayal, selflessness, and the whole gamut human virtue and vice.  Rather, it is the public morality we have draped it in that has changed, from the yards of heavy cloth of earlier times, to the tight-fitting and scanty covering we have today.

 

All this is pretty obvious, but what's the point?   That we should re-institute the production code of the Breen years?  Or that we should all just dress more modestly and curse only in private?

You know, the saviors of decency, Joseph Breen and Will Hays didn't exactly have cleanliness under their nails you know. 

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Your reply just reminded me of Bubba Flavel in "Porky's II" 

 

00526.jpg

I recently wrote a series at the Classic Film Union about the dirty dealings both Breen and Hays were apart of. I mean, its not like they slept with anyone they shouldn't of or anything- but just enough to find out they were the last people to claim to be moral about something. 

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I caught the end of the Norma Shearer version of The Last of Mrs. Cheyney this morning.  Watching the characters spar about blackmail around the breakfast table, I ruminated on how impossible it was to write such delicious dialog today, scandal such as that contained in the letter written to her not any more being something to contemplate with shock or dread.  Indeed, it would be sought out as something to give one's facebook page or blog a high profile.  Watching the studio-era films on TCM provides a sharp contrast with today's values.  Even in the so-called pre-code era, almost all the movies ended with a wink and a pirouette, endorsing conventional values.  Ah, the legacy of the rock-and-roll generation.  I am afraid what we have gained is not liberation, but license.  We still remain as immature a culture as we ever were, but have simply removed the repression and public censure.  So heists don't have to fail, foul language is a part of normal discourse, and adulteresses don't have to die.

 

But really, has human nature changed so much in that short span of years?  Mmm, I think not.  I think it has been chugging along as it always has as long as there were humans, with the same levels of lust, infidelity, generosity, greed, honesty, betrayal, selflessness, and the whole gamut human virtue and vice.  Rather, it is the public morality we have draped it in that has changed, from the yards of heavy cloth of earlier times, to the tight-fitting and scanty covering we have today.

 

Getting back to slayton's original post here...

 

I've never caught the original '29 version of this film, but I have recently watched the '37 remake of it starring Joan Crawford, William Powell and Robert Montgomery, and which I understand is played very close to the original. And while I did think the dialogue was very smart and sophisticated, I think those too adjectives I just used go more to the heart of this "how times have changed" premise than does the concept of "morality".

 

In this I mean, the characters are almost all depicted as either being "Upper Crust" OR are depicted as savvy con men and women(i.e: "smart and sophisticated") and thus would be people far more inclined to wish to keep secrets about themselves from becoming general knowledge.

 

And so, to premise the thought that these people especially somehow exemplify the standard of behavior of a long ago and now lamented era would be a mistake, I believe.

 

And secondly regarding the idea that people now days are inclined to post some of the most "personal things" imaginable on their "facebook account" also makes me think that EVEN today, "smart and sophisticated" people DON'T do that, or at least have a sense of modicum decorum which they keep to.

 

In other words, while some idiots today will of course post some of THE dumbest(though NOT necessarily "immoral") things imaginable that they've done on their Facebook page OR videos of such on YouTube, and often apparently in some kind of a perverse prideful manner, this has FAR more to do with just being "stupid" and wanting to be "known"(i.e. their "15 minutes of Fame") than it does about being "immoral".

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By people who usually have a nebulous grasp on the subject of History, and who wish to express the mistaken belief that the Roman Empire's collapse was primarily predicated upon some idea of a decay in the moral fiber of its society. Yep, a concept quite often offered up by a segment of our present society often referred to as "Bible-Thumpers". That's who.

 

(...any other questions?) ;)

 

LOL

Incisive.

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Getting back to slayton's original post here...

 

I've never caught the original '29 version of this film, but I have recently watched the '37 remake of it starring Joan Crawford, William Powell and Robert Montgomery, and which I understand is played very close to the original. And while I did think the dialogue was very smart and sophisticated, I think those too adjectives I just used go more to the heart of this "how times have changed" premise than does the concept of "morality".

 

In this I mean, the characters are almost all depicted as either being "Upper Crust" OR are depicted as savvy con men and women(i.e: "smart and sophisticated") and thus would be people far more inclined to wish to keep secrets about themselves from becoming general knowledge.

 

And so, to premise the thought that these people especially somehow exemplify the standard of behavior of a long ago and now lamented era would be a mistake, I believe.

 

And secondly regarding the idea that people now days are inclined to post some of the most "personal things" imaginable on their "facebook account" also makes me think that EVEN today, "smart and sophisticated" people DON'T do that, or at least have a sense of modicum decorum which they keep to.

 

In other words, while some idiots today will of course post some of THE dumbest(though NOT necessarily "immoral") things imaginable that they've done on their Facebook page OR videos of such on YouTube, and often apparently in some kind of a perverse prideful manner, this has FAR more to do with just being "stupid" and wanting to be "known"(i.e. their "15 minutes of Fame") than it does about being "immoral".

I agree, and might I add that it is also possible that morality is essentially in relating to behavior not clothes. In my experience, the self-righteous who claim themselves morally pure suffer more than the sin of pride, but the hypocrisy of action. In film terms, Loretta Young might have earned the nickname "Attila The Nun" in light of her religious indoctrinating and playing morality police, but she also wasn't above sleeping with a married man either. 

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Getting back to slayton's original post here...

 

I've never caught the original '29 version of this film, but I have recently watched the '37 remake of it starring Joan Crawford, William Powell and Robert Montgomery, and which I understand is played very close to the original. And while I did think the dialogue was very smart and sophisticated, I think those too adjectives I just used go more to the heart of this "how times have changed" premise than does the concept of "morality".

 

In this I mean, the characters are almost all depicted as either being "Upper Crust" OR are depicted as savvy con men and women(i.e: "smart and sophisticated") and thus would be people far more inclined to wish to keep secrets about themselves from becoming general knowledge.

 

And so, to premise the thought that these people especially somehow exemplify the standard of behavior of a long ago and now lamented era would be a mistake, I believe.

 

And secondly regarding the idea that people now days are inclined to post some of the most "personal things" imaginable on their "facebook account" also makes me think that EVEN today, "smart and sophisticated" people DON'T do that, or at least have a sense of modicum decorum which they keep to.

 

In other words, while some idiots today will of course post some of THE dumbest(though NOT necessarily "immoral") things imaginable that they've done on their Facebook page OR videos of such on YouTube, and often apparently in some kind of a perverse prideful manner, this has FAR more to do with just being "stupid" and wanting to be "known"(i.e. their "15 minutes of Fame") than it does about being "immoral".

 

While I think a lot of your comments are apt and insightful, I think I have to disagree with you on one point.  Celebrities today, or people who chase celebrity purposely cultivate the scandalous as a means of heightening their profile.  The most disappointing of these practices is the 'accidental' release of sex-videos.  My reaction to them is not so much shock, or moral outrage, but rather eye-rolling exasperation.

 

And to clear up any misunderstanding, I don't lament a long-lost era of purity and morality.  I was indirectly, perhaps too indirectly, hinting at the hypocrisy that existed in the past--in films, at least, and the somewhat false modernism of today.  For while the old codes made for some entertaining dialog and plots, it did procrustean violence to the human condition in cookie-cuttering stories into the same pattern.  As for today, in spite of all the body parts and language in movies, and in spite of the normalization of previously

condemned behavior, I am continually surprised to see many of the same values implicit in them as existed in movies of old.  This is especially true for romance-type movies, either dramatic or comic.

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I believe that a division must be made when evaluating morality.

 

People accept that actors, musicians and such people will not conform to moral standards of society at large. Their choices and actions do not affect their product and so are not truly important. 

 

People expect their financial and government leaders to conform to moral standards because failing to do so indicates weakness. Poor choices in their private lives indicate that they may make poor choices in serving the community. 

 

I believe that a comparison example can be legitimate:

A guitarist who is stoned out of his mind when laying down tracks will not be judged harshly because no one is hurt if his rifts are less than amazing. 

A banker who is stoned out of his mind when buying tertiary bonds will be judged harshly because he can destroy investors' lives because financial devastation can lead to death.

 

Society can afford stupidity and immorality in celebrities and those who post on FaceSpace because none of these people are in any way important to the public's continuing health and happiness.

 

Society will always hold leaders of society to a higher standard because their actions affect the public's basic security.

 

The characters in the mentioned movie are in ruling class and so social scandal would seriously affect public trust. The pool of public leaders was much smaller then so there was no assurance that so many other leaders would be involved in scandal that their own scandal would be quickly forgotten.

 

It is also that morality in society cycles. I can think offhand of one thing which was fun in the 1920s but could lead to life imprisonment in the 1950s and is fun and legal now. It is likely that society will soon experience a reversal and there will be many grandmothers with sex videos floating around the Internet and intimate body parts covered in tattoos who will be estranged from their grandchildren because the young can not afford to be associated publicly with such people.

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We all had a hand to make today's celebrities famous. We are amused by their downfall as easily as we are happy at their success. We as a whole cannot unify the public persona with the person because we feel that as soon as one is public in the fame sense of the definition, they are not themselves anymore, they are ours. 

 

It's no surprise why addiction and scandal ruin, destroy, and kill celebrities. They are trapped in our society's dehumanizing bubble of what we constitute fame to be. 

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