Culture Notes


Issue: "Drawing the Line," Feb. 22, 1997

Classic remakes

A movie based on C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is currently in production. Negotiations are also underway for a film version of J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Hollywood's rediscovery of literary classics is also bearing fruit in upcoming versions of Alexander Dumas's The Man in the Iron Mask (with John Malkovich, Jeremy Irons, and Gerard Depardieu as the Three Musketeers) and Cervantes's Don Quixote (with the promising match-up of British funny-man John Cleese as the mixed-up knight and Robin Williams as Sancho Panza).

From beyond the grave

Rapper Tupac Shakur, shot dead by an unknown assailant, was a victim of the gangster lifestyle he celebrated in his recordings. Many, though, have not learned the lesson, as his fans enshrine him as a legend and as record producers continue to exploit his ill-fated career. In fact, his fans are concocting elaborate conspiracy theories, arguing that he actually staged his own death and that he is, like Elvis, still alive. A posthumous album, The Don Killuminati, has become a major hit. Death Row Records has already released the soundtrack for Gridlock'd, a movie starring Mr. Shakur. Another movie, Gang Related, starring Mr. Shakur and Jim Belushi, will be released this fall; it also includes a Shakur-authored soundtrack. A tribute album of Mr. Shakur's early work will be released in March by two small and appropriately named labels, Arrogant/Bonafyde Records and Koskis Mafia Recordings. Reports indicate that record company vaults hold over 150 unreleased songs. Though rights to the material may be tied up in lawsuits, indications are that we will be hearing Mr. Shakur's glorifications of crime, violence, and sexual abuse for some time to come, as if he hadn't been murdered by someone living out his songs.

Celebrity endorsements

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Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recently shot a commercial for Coors beer. This endorsement, for which he reportedly was paid between $100,000 and $300,000, is not unusual. But Mr. Abdul-Jabbar is a practicing Muslim, whose religion requires him to abstain from all alcoholic beverages. Similarly, Michael Jackson scored big bucks to promote Pepsi, even though he does not drink it, again, for religious reasons. As a Jehovah's Witness, his belief forbids the consumption of caffeine. Before, we had celebrities endorsing products they do not use. Now, we have celebrities endorsing products they do not believe in.

Enter his Gates with Thanksgiving

&quotJust in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient," pontificated computer mogul Bill Gates in an interview with Time magazine. &quotThere's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning." The statement illustrates how for many in our culture today, religion is seen not as a matter of truth but as a lifestyle choice. Besides its blasphemous pride and breathtaking shallowness, Mr. Gates's observation is also a reminder that, in an age of home computers, cellular phones, faxes, and beepers, some people never stop working. It should be no surprise that ours is also an age of burnout, stress, untended children, and spousal neglect. No wonder that God, in his wisdom, commanded that his people observe the Sabbath: not only to worship him, but--upon pain of death--to take a day of rest.

Battling two addictions

ABC television is planning its own war against drugs. Throughout March, every hour of programming will feature an anti-drug public service announcement. In addition, news programs will feature stories on the subject, and dramas and sitcoms will carry anti-drug storylines. &quotMy hope is that it will have a ripple effect throughout the network and hopefully throughout the business," said ABC president David Westin. The network, in conjunction with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, will be using the slogan &quotSilence is Acceptance." Their goal is to help children and parents talk about the issue. The campaign will culminate with a televised &quottown hall meeting" on March 30. At one point, the screen will go blank so that parents can talk to their children about drugs. This is to say, the network is doing for parents what they ought to do themselves: Turn off the television.


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