Cleaning Up the Small Screen

PRESIDENT Clinton has been criticized for being too chummy with the Hollywood crowd, but if he has any influence with them he should use it to have them perform a badly needed service for the country: Cleaning up some of the violence, profanity, and pornography on television and in movies that have become a national scandal.

The president should lean on his showbiz friends to temper the sick apologia for entertainment that is often paraded before the country's youth and besmirching the American image abroad.

Do I hear charges of censorship? Stifling of the creative muse? Nonsense. Take a run through your local movie listings, as I just did for my area this week, and see what is offered up in the name of entertainment and art.

There is "Masters of Menace," billed as a comedy, in which "biker and gang do road trip with comrade's corpse."

"Doctor Mordrid" has "two 4-D sorcerers" fighting over earth's fate.

In "Donovan's Brain," "evil tycoon's brain usurps its scientist keeper."

"Creepozoids" has nuclear war survivors stumbling on a tusked monster.

Here's Arnold Schwarzenegger, that crusader for national health and fitness, promoting bizarre new kinds of terror in a couple of "Conan" movies.

And a few TV movies I am fated never to see or understand: "Caveman," in which "wimp bops dinosaur, invents rock music, lusts for cavegirl," and "Cherry 2000," in which "tracker leads yuppie to robot sex-object parts."

I haven't seen these movies. It is just possible that some have some minor redeeming features. But they sound like trash. Thankfully, some are aired in the 2 a.m. ghetto of moronic TV-watching. Others are shown in the morning or afternoon when a child who eludes the control of a parent can become a hostage to their inanity, violence, and lack of taste.

I am not arguing that the TV screen should be dominated by "Old Yeller" and "Sound of Music." But surely it is not beyond the wit of this remarkable society to screen out the worst of what is unwholesome during the hours that children and young people are mesmerized by the screen, plus reduce the level of violence across the board.

Jack Valenti, spokesman for the major Hollywood studios, says he's troubled about the spectre of censorship. But it is not censorship to ask some of the Hollywood heavies to inject a little more good taste into their industry.

What if some of the White House buddies like Barbara Streisand and Harry Thomason focused on violence in the television and movie business as well as on Bosnia and the White House travel office?

A campaign by such stars and producers against violence-laden shows - and a refusal to make them or act in them - would have a dramatic impact and, I suspect, strike a very responsive chord with the public.

A recent Times-Mirror survey found that 72 percent of those polled said there was too much violence on entertainment programs.

One of Hollywood's plaints is that it's just giving the public what they want, a doubtful premise.

Spain and Colombia recently launched aggressive campaigns to purge violence, sex, and unacceptable language from their television screens. Surely America can find a sensible way to do the same.

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