The book begins with a passionate story about a town’s love for theirstatue of the popular character “Rocky”, a down & out boxer who makes itbig. The town became enraged and crying freedom of speech rights whenofficials attempt to move the statue to a local sports arena from themuseum where it rests. . However, because the statue was in the image of alow-class movie hero, the museum insisted that the statue was not art, butrather an icon of sports and entertainment and should be moved. This upsetthe people of the city, who then petitioned until the statue was replacedon the museum steps. This is a great example to start off this book,because it reflects the cultural struggles between the “hi-class” and the”low-class” entertainment worlds in America throughout recent history.
Entertainment. The book approaches the subject from a mostly worldlypoint of view at first. It talks about ratings and labels forentertainment, but I must question if that is the way a Christian shouldlook at it. If a rating is placed on it, that will not make the problemgo away. As a Christian community, we should take up the fight to abolishthe problem.
This is also tricky because what do we determine is “good” or”bad”? If we use previous examples from American history, as learned inthe first few chapters of the book, more problems will be created thansolved. In the first few chapters of the book, Romanowski gives awonderfully repetitive history of theater, vaudeville, and other forms ofthen “questionable” entertainment such as opera houses and beer gardens. The conflict begins with the rise of “low culture” entertainment thatappeals to the working class, the immigrants, and the un-sophisticatedpopulace. This made the distinction between “high” and “low” cultures,”high” (symphonies, fine art, sculpture, etc.
. ) being for the elite andwell-educated, while “low” was associated with the lower, working classthat included immigrants. Through the chapters, Romanowski illustrates theinflation of this division, as well as the conflict between the people andthe Church regarding entertainment. Chapter three discusses how the peopleof America were searching for a unifying principle or common faith thatwould hold the nation’s people together. What they found instead was anuprise in “immorality” and a decrease in the “high culture”. This couldmean only one thing: “low culture was bad”.
Theater, Opera Houses,Vaudeville, and Nickelodeons all got their “bad” connotations from this erabecause of their appeal to the “lower”, less moral people of society. Therefore, the Church had to place a moral stance against this apostasy ofthe holiness of American culture, and place a ban on all “low” forms ofentertainment. “The church’s prohibition of amusements could not suppresspeople’s desire for it. ” (p 84) As hard as the Church tried, theirsuppression of the amusements didn’t stunt their growth in any way, in factit only made it worse. Eventually, the “high” forms of entertainment(theater, etc) were losing money and patronization began.
More money wasgiven to the amusements than to the Church. The entertainment of thesetheaters then had to stoop to the lowest moral level to appeal to thebroadest array of audience. Eventually, the Church gave up it’s fightagain the theater and began to use it as a tool for the Church, as theylater do with all forms of media that they have protested, such astelevision, radio, music, and even comics. Eventually, with all the “good”entertainment in the industry, other producers began to “clean-up” too, andeventually the industry was “decent” (even though it was still full ofinnuendos, double entendres, and suggestions of immorality), however it didnot last long and was over looked when the television and the radio emergedon the scene. Romanowski gives a great illustration of the Church’s struggle to stayinside the cultural movements of the day while still committed to Christianvalues that, more often than not, opposed society.
The Church, afterforfeiting the uphill-battle against American culture, attempts to usepopular entertainment as a tool for ministry by “scrubbing it morally andspiritually clean by their standards.” This refers to comics being used insalvation tracts, Christian or Biblical-themed motion pictures,contemporary Christian gospel music, and even radio broadcasts .