Ad Says Worlds About Us

Li e berman is a media psychiatrist, script consultant and talk-show host based in Beverly Hills. She also chairs the National Coalition on Television Violence

Is nothing sacred anymore? Apparently not. Even exclusive billing on a NASA rocket can be bought for the right amount of money and political connections (" 'Action' Promotion Is Out of This World," Calendar, March 3).

Putting an ad on a rocket, most particularly the logo for Arnold Schwarzenegger's upcoming movie "Last Action Hero," summarizes at once what is wrong with America: its descent into commercialization run amok and primitive violence.

Whether or not you believe that extraterrestrial beings exist, would this ad be the introductory message you would want to send them . . . in case they do? Shouldn't we be searching for something more meaningful and substantive to communicate? What has become of the storehouses of American intellect, creativity and spirituality? Have they crumbled under the weight of billboards proclaiming we're worthless (unless we buy product X) and graffiti rage screaming back that we know we are?

There have been hints that America has turned into a "vast wasteland," satisfied to be the "lowest common denominator." When communism fell and all America had to offer people starving for the cultural fruits of freedom were hamburger stands and pizza take-outs to dot their landscape, the hints became a certainty.

Now we are traveling to even farther destinations. And it is becoming ever more painfully clear that too many of us have succumbed to "battle-fatigue" in our struggle for survival and run out of anything meaningful to say, forgetting why meaningfulness was ever important in the first place.

How else can we explain the insanity that led to the choice of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie logo as our first message to any life forms that may exist in outer space? Arnold Schwarzenegger has become an American icon, worshiped as the God Violent Power by the disenfranchised and powerless masses. His movies are orgies of mayhem that average more than 100 acts of glamorized violence per hour.

Publicity promoting the "Last Action Hero" touts it as an anti-violence movie, but that's what they claimed about "Terminator 2," which contained more than 180 acts of violence. Just because "Terminator 2" implied that nuclear war is bad and Arnold refrained from killing most of his victims--only maiming them instead so that they contorted on the ground like bugs with some of their legs pulled off--doesn't make it a statement of anti-violence.


The fact that the giant Schwarzenegger balloon launched over New York City had to trade its dynamite sticks for a police badge after life-imitated-art at the World Trade Center even before the movie was released, does not bode well for the "Last Action Hero."

America, as the No. 1 exporter of violent films, is now reaching new heights, literally. Who knows, we may get to see an extraterrestrial sooner than we thought, as they flock to Earth to see the latest Schwarzenegger flick, hooked by the glitzy rocket ad to come to the theater nearest them.

Of course, Columbia isn't paying half-a-million dollars to attract beings from outer space--not unless they can pay for their tickets with U.S. currency and like to eat popcorn. The media coverage of the rocket launching will pay for the ad many times over as it brings earthlings into theaters in record numbers.

One can only hope that any life forms in outer space are highly evolved enough to recognize the Schwarzenegger movie ad for what it really is--a warning: Unless they are more careful than we have been not to abuse the power of media, then they, too, will find the riches of their galaxies depleted until made barren by greed and violence.


Meanwhile, we here on Earth need to wake up from our media-induced passive slumber and protest this travesty! We need to rediscover, nurture and protect our storehouses of American intellect, creativity and spirituality before they are razed and the ground sold to the highest bidder--just like the NASA rockets.

We must not allow an icon of destruction to mock and besmirch our rockets, once symbols of idealistic challenges met. If we do, not only our rockets--but our souls--will never soar again. . . .

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