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Good riddance to some bad trends

The Baltimore Sun

The turning of the year is a time of many media traditions. For example, the tearing away of the last page of the calendar is all the excuse TV producers need to recycle hours of sensational video footage of dubious news value on the pretense that viewers need to relive the last 365 days. There's also the more honorable habit of remembering those who died in the last year - something we could all do more of, particularly for our soldiers who were fighting abroad in our name. And then there's the practice of retroactive "trend-spotting," which has become something of an obsession with today's journalists.

I think it's time to marry some of these traditions. What we need are "trend obituaries." Hence, let us remember three of the cultural trends that died - or were at least mortally wounded - in the previous year, for the betterment of all mankind.

The discrediting of Hollywood "protest." Hollywood will never give up trying to make Americans think like Barbra Streisand, but 2007 showed that it might have a harder time raising money for the effort. In the last year, Hollywood dropped enough antiwar bombs to launch its own "shock and awe" campaign.

Robert Redford's star-studded Lions for Lambs was panned by critics and moviegoers across the ideological spectrum. But the bunker-buster of box-office bombs was Brian De Palma's Redacted, which grossed a staggeringly paltry $65,000. Americans may not be keen on the Iraq war, but they appear even less keen on hearing Hollywood's opinion on it.

The demise of slattern chic. For nearly 40 years, feminists and others have championed female sexual assertiveness as a sign of self-confidence, independence and emotional maturity. Like so much in feminism, a defensible idea was carried to an indefensible extreme. In the 1980s, Madonna was declared a feminist icon because she "owned" her sexuality and treated men the way piggish men historically treated women. In the 1990s, an army of Madonna "mini-mes" was unleashed upon the land, each boasting to be even more sexually "independent" than the last.

In 2007, the allure of bimboism finally began to fade. Celebrity gold digger Anna Nicole Smith died from the drugs she needed just to cope with being Anna Nicole Smith. More important, Britney Spears, the reigning queen of slattern chic, was revealed to be not any sort of self-actualized young woman, bravely asking, "Can you handle my truth?" Rather, we learned that she can't handle her own truth and that she resides in the gray hinterlands between mulish stupidity and mental defect. Adam Graham, columnist at the Detroit News, points out that it was no small feat for Ms. Spears to have her children taken from her. "If you'll remember, even O.J. Simpson kept custody of his children, despite DNA evidence that showed there was a 1 in 170 million chance he didn't murder their mother."

No doubt we are in store for various "comebacks" in years to come. But let us hope that more girls - not burdened by psychological problems of their own - will find more cautionary example and less glamour in the Spears tale of woe.

The democratization of porn. The year 2007 may have marked the beginning of the end of the Internet's greatest financial success story: hugely profitable pornography. While the mainstream media spent billions of dollars and nearly a decade trying to make a buck off the Internet, the porn industry raked in cash from the moment Al Gore invented the thing. But with the rise of sites such as YouPorn, the online subscriber model is imploding. DVD sales are plummeting, too, and the adult video business is actually laying off workers (no pun intended). YouPorn is now the most-visited adult site in the world, and its traffic is growing at nearly 40 percent a month. Smut isn't going away, to be sure. But its industrialization may finally be in retreat.

Of course, trend analysis is a subjective practice. No doubt there are many who are bitterly disappointed that Hollywood has once again failed to lift the nation to its own level of political enlightenment. And some may lament the fading of bimboism as the rise of fuddy-duddyism. And the long soup lines for porn directors may even bring a tear to someone's eye - particularly Brian De Palma, as he may be looking for work.

Jonah Goldberg, author of the forthcoming "Liberal Fascism," is a syndicated columnist. His e-mail is

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