Damned in the USA

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In the United States, government funding for the arts has never been popular among the more conservative members of Congress, and to populists it has an unappealing odor of elitism. Nonetheless, at one time the arts were held in sufficiently high esteem that the National Endowment for the Arts was created and funded. In the late '80s and early '90s, the efforts of avant-garde members of the art community to shock the sensibilities of the American mainstream succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. The resulting furor elicited frenzied and at times foolish-looking denunciations from the religious and social right, and vapid self-righteous posturings from the art community, who were unable to admit the possibility that the (publicly funded) excesses of artists like Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe, whatever their purely artistic merits, were damaging the cause of public funding for the arts, which relies on popular support or at the very least popular acceptance. This documentary gives the very conservative Rev. Donald Wildmon a chance to speak freely, along with responses from the pro-arts funding community by Christie Hefner (Hugh's daughter) and others. Other notable figures involved in the controversy whose views are aired include Senator Alfonse D'Amato and Jesse Helms. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi

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