Movies And Morality
Morality Ministries Evaluates Movies and TV Shows
By John H. Evans, President, Movie Morality Ministries, Inc.
Deterioration in Popular Culture
Just about every one would agree that there has been a drastic decline in the moral content of our popular culture, particularly in secular movies, TV entertainment and popular music content. This is one of the most talked about concerns in today's society. Even Bob Dole has taken up the crusade against this deterioration, and other politicians are concerned about it as well. Al Gore's office recently called our ministry asking for more information on what we do and requesting copies of our movie and TV review publications. To a large extent, the deterioration in movies and TV has come about by a strong shift to degenerate and ungodly characters, and a trend away from characters with wholesome life styles. At the same time, there has been an appalling amount of obscenities, profanities, sadistic violence, graphic sex and sexually suggestive dialogue flooding into movies and TV.
Scriptural Basis For Movie Reviewing Ministry
Like a number of others, our ministry is addressing this concern and doing what we can to stem the tide of further deterioration and, hopefully, reverse the trend. At the very least, we want to help as many Christians as possible from being carried along with the trend. The scriptural basis for our ministry and the major admonition we present to the Christian community is Philippians 4:8."Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true..honest..just .. pure..lovely..good report, if there any virtue, and if there be praise, think on these things." Christians should avoid those movies and TV which will tear them down morally and spiritually. Unfortunately, surveys indicate that Christians view about the movies and TV shows as non Christians.
Call For Help From Christian Broadcasters
Christian broadcasters can help remedy this situation by working with our ministry and others who believe these trends are alarming. We must call Americans, particularly Christians, back to righteousness in their movie and TV viewing. This will require a massive educational campaign and Christian radio and TV broadcasters are in an ideal position to help in this effort. We urge Christian broadcasters to join us in dealing with this threat.
Resources Available to Christian Broadcasters
If Christians are to be more selective in their movie and TV viewing, they must have advance information on the moral content of the movies and TV shows. To this end, our ministry publishes reviews of current movies and TV shows twice monthly in our PREVIEW FAMILY MOVIE AND TV REVIEW. Also, since it is particularly useful for Christians to know about the desirable movies and TV shows available to them, we provide a daily recorded PREVIEW'S REVIEWS radio program on cassette and satellite. Each cassette contains five- two minute reviews of current movies, TV shows and videos which we recommend as good family viewing. Further, to help Christians select desirable video movies to view, we have published a FAMILY VIDEO GUIDE TO RECOMMENDED MOVIES. This 140 page book contains brief reviews of over 1,000 secular and Christian video movies which are outstanding decent entertainment for all age levels in the family.
Broadcasters Need to Know How Films/TV Are Evaluated
If a broadcaster plans to air movie and TV reviews, he or she will want to know just where the reviewer stands on evaluating movies, particularly how the reviewer determines the acceptability of films and TV shows. We have struggled with the issue of acceptability for almost 15 years and still find that it is a difficult question. However, we have developed guidelines for rating the acceptability of movies and TV shows which our reviewers must follow. The key question to be answered is whether the film or TV show violates Biblical standards and/or adversely affects the moral and spiritual life of the viewer.
Overall, our movie and TV evaluations are based on Biblical values. We not only consider what is acceptable in terms of language, violence , sex, and drug abuse in films and TV, but, very importantly, evaluate the messages and themes of a film or TV episode.
Entertainment And Acceptability Ratings Explained
We rate films on the basis of their entertainment value and moral acceptability and give specific ratings for each film. The accompanying boxes give a complete description of the ratings and terms we use in evaluating movies. For entertainment, these range from a +4 for excellent to a 0 for not entertaining at all. Our acceptability ratings range from a +4 for no questionable elements to a -4 for severely objectionable. Any movie with a positive acceptability rating is acceptable, but we have degrees of acceptability. These are designed to give more specific information on movie or TV show content.
Entertainment Ratings Indicate Appeal to General Public
Our entertainment rating is our best guess as to how well a movie will do at the box office, or how a TV show will perform in the Nielsen rankings. However, some of our readers have asked how we can give a high entertainment rating to a film with many repulsive elements which are offensive to discerning viewers. This is a valid concern, so we suggest that readers rely heavily on our acceptability ratings to select movies. At the same time, if a film is unusually degenerate, we tend to downgrade its entertainment rating.
Brief Description of Evaluation Guidelines
The following is a brief description of the guidelines we use to rate movies. We have found over the years that it is important to have all the terms we use defined specifically to avoid confusion. It also provides continuity from one review to the next. In general, we rate TV shows the same way as movies, but have somewhat more stringent restrictions on undesirable elements. The principal reason is that TV comes directly into the home and children have such ready access to TV.
We subdivide offensive
language into three categories: Mild and moderate crude language and obscenities.
Mild language refers to hells and damns only, moderate to more intense crude
words, and obscenities which are words or slang expressions used in a crude
manner to designate sexual intercourse, genitals or excrement. The most common
obscenities are "f" and s words.
We define profanity as either regular or exclamatory. Regular profanity is using the names of God, Jesus and the Lord in an irreverent manner. The most common example is the GD word. When these names are used in purely an exclamatory sense, such as "Oh My God", we consider this less objectionable since it usually is not meant to be irreverent.
The rational for insisting that crude, obscene and profane language be avoided in movies and TV is that it is a form of cultural pollution and viewers are likely to be influenced to talk the same way. It also is a violation of Biblical moral principles.
We will give an acceptable rating to a movie with some mild and moderately crude words, but draw the line on obscenities and regular profanities. However, on rare occasions, we will recommend a film which has one or two S words, or milder obscenities, if it is an outstanding film with strong redeeming values. Nevertheless, we avoid approving a movie or TV show with the "f" word. As to profanity, we feel that it is not acceptable to take the Lord's name in vain anywhere, whether in real life of in the movies or TV. The Lord's name is holy and to be held in reverence. No matter how "realistic" if may be for movie characters to use profanity, we do not consider it acceptable.
We rate violence as mild, moderate and severe. We believe that violence can play a legitimate part in movies and TV, and is acceptable if it is not sadistic or gratuitous and is not exploited just to entertain or appeal to prurient interests. Unfortunately, much of the violence in today's movies, particularly in action and horror films , goes beyond what is legitimate . Sadistic and gratuitous violence can desensitize viewers to violence and even encourage them to act out what they see on the screen. In a time when violent crime is a major concern in this country, the last thing we need is for movies to encourage it.
We describe sexual content in four segments: Sexual intercourse, nudity , homosexual conduct and sexually suggestive dialogue/action. Frequently, sexual intercourse and homosexual conduct is implied , not actually shown, and we note that as well. The objection to showing intercourse and nudity in films is that it can stimulate sexual desire outside the marriage bedroom. Sexually suggestive dialogue or action can have the same undesirable effect and tends to degrade women more often that not. Viewers of pornographic images have been known to act out what they see, and pornography has even lead to sexual crimes.
For these reasons , the showing of actual intercourse, nudity and homosexual conduct in movies and TV is not acceptable. Implied sex may be acceptable if it is a legitimate part of the story and does not imply that promiscuous sex is acceptable. If sex is implied between married couples this could be acceptable, if it is not portrayed in a crude or suggestive manner. Any portrayal of sexual or suggestive content is not acceptable if it is designed to appeal to prurient interests.
Messages and Themes:
One of the most important facets of evaluating the content of movies and TV is to identify the messages they convey and their story line themes. It is well known that movies and TV do more than just entertain. They also influence behavior and attitudes. If viewers consistently view movies and TV with undesirable moral messages, eventually they and the culture at large are likely to embrace the values portrayed.
The following are some of the more important messages we look for in films and how we evaluate them:
Desirable And Undesirable Behavior:
If undesirable behavior is presented as acceptable, possibly even exciting and glamorous, then this is unacceptable. On the other hand, if a degenerate character is portrayed in a neutral manner or the character abandons his antisocial behavior, this is acceptable in a movie. If commendable behavior is portrayed, such as love, caring, loyalty, and Christian principles, these enhance the acceptability of a film.
These are frequently portrayed as quite normal and acceptable. To an extent, producers are reflecting what's happening in our modern culture, but in the process they are reinforcing the practice. If a film presents this message, it is not acceptable.
Sadistic, brutal violence is commonly portrayed as exciting and fun and quite acceptable behavior. Violence is frequently exploited just to entertain and excite. If viewers feed on this type of entertainment , they are likely to become less sensitive to violence and more prone to aggressive behavior.
Occultic Characters and Practices:
The portrayal of occultic characters and practices may be acceptable. It depends on whether the occult is portrayed in a favorable light or the film even encourages viewers to become involved in the occult. If a film promotes, glorifies or exploits the occult to entertain, we feel this is unacceptable. It is particularly questionable in children's films. If the occult is shown to be evil and harmful, it could very well be acceptable in films.
It has become very common to portray the homosexual lifestyle in movies and TV as quite acceptable. It is frequently portrayed as something to be tolerated and accepted. We feel this message is undesirable.
We are particularly concerned about the portrayal of Christians in a demeaning manner. It is not uncommon for films and TV shows to be anti religion and portray Christians as crooks, buffoons and perverts. If this message comes across in a film or TV show, it is not acceptable.
If New Age or pagan religions are portrayed as appealing or desirable, this would not be acceptable to Christian viewers.
Films and Tv Shows Recommended in 1995
MOVIES: In 1995, we screened and evaluated 205 secular movies, but only gave our approval to 47, or 23%. About 72% of those recommended were rated G and PG. We rarely give an R rated film a positive rating, but we did approve Beyond Rangoon and Dr. Zhivago last year. We also gave positive acceptability ratings to 7 PG-13 films.
Among those we recommended were: Babe, Big Green, Cry the Beloved Country, Englishman Who Went Up a Hill, Far From Home, Father of the Bride, Indian in the Cupboard, Journey of August King, Operation Dumbo Drop, Sabrina, Sense and Sensibility, Tall Tale, Toy Story , and A Walk in the Clouds.
TV: In the fall of 1995,
we evaluated 42 new TV series, but were able to recommend only ll of them. Those
classified as acceptable were: The Client, Maybe This Time, Space: Above and
Beyond, Strange Luck, Minor Adjustments, Brotherly Love, Nowhere Man, Bonnie
Hunt Show, Pinky and the Brain, Kirk and Simon. Of the 32 new mid season replacement
TV series premiering during Jan-April, 1996, we recommended only 12. Among these
were Bonnie, Second Noah, the Louie Show, World's Funniest Videos and Muppets
Brief Examples of Film and TV Evaluations
Father of the Bride 2 (PG) Entertainment + 3 ½ Acceptability +3
This comedy present a loving family who support each other and two couples who are faithful to each other. One kissing scene between husband and wife implies that sex with follow, but sex is not shown. There is no offensive language or violence. Two effeminate men are portrayed comically, but no homosexual conduct is implied. It has its flaws, but can be recommended.
Sense And Sensibility (PG) Entertainment +3 ½ Acceptability+3 ½
This is one of those fine classics which is very entertaining, genteel and free of offensive elements. It portrays strong family loyalty, and adversity faced with dignity. It has only one moderately crude word, but no sexual content or significant violence. It deserves a hearty recommendation.
Second Noah (TV Series) Entertainment + 2 ½ Acceptability +3
This appealing new TV series follows the tribulations and joys of Noah and Jesse Beckett who adopt homeless children. There have been a few mildly suggestive scenes and the Becketts are somewhat lenient in their discipline. However, it has had no offensive language or sex, and has a number of commendable messages. It deserves a recommendation.
Casper (PG) Entertainment + 3 ½ Acceptability-1
This animated film, apparently targeted for older children, was very successful at the box office, but had several elements undesirable elements. It's theme was the friendship of a young girl with likeable ghost and the desire of a man to communicate with his deceased wife. Since communication with spirits of the dead is forbidden in the Bible, and this film portrayed it as acceptable, we could not recommend it. Surprisingly, it also has several crude words, two obscenities and three regular profanities.
Apollo 13 (PG 13) Entertainment + 3 ½ Acceptability-1
Apollo 13 is an inspiring, patriotic film which was nominated for best picture of the year. But its acceptability is virtually destroyed by a barrage of gratuitous foul language, including taking the Lord's name in vain 17 times. Also, some sexually suggestive remarks are made and the story implies that one of the astronauts is involved in an acceptable premarital affair.
Call for Cooperation with Broadcasters
We look forward to working with Christian broadcasters in calling America back to righteousness in its movie and TV viewing. Together with others concerned about the popular culture crisis, we can furnish information which will help families select entertainment which will build them up morally and spiritually.
Comments on this article and enquiries about movie reviews may be sent to John Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org contact details for this ministry are below.
Preview Movie &
Richardson, TX 75080
vox: (972) 231-9910
fax: (972) 669-9040
This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at email@example.com.