Minds, Morals and Movies
by Peter Hammond
There is tremendous power in art and entertainment to change lives and shape society. Through the mass communication media - newspapers, radio, films, videos and TV - ideas and values are promoted that transform history. The media can be used to inspire great sacrifice and service. It can also influence people to commit terrible acts of cruelty and carnage.
“Whoever controls the media, controls the culture.” Dr. Ted Baehr “Whoever defines the word, defines the world.” John Locke “The pen is mightier than the sword.” William Shakespeare
In households with television, the average child sees between 15000 to 30000 hours of television before leaving school! (Nielsen Media Research 1995). During the same time period the average child will spend from 11000 to 16000 hours in school and less than 2000 hours of quality interaction with their parents (The Media-Wise Family by Dr. Ted Baehr). Many children spend more time watching TV before reaching age six than they will spend with their fathers throughout their entire life!
To most young people films are more real than reality. Movies show you what to do, how to do it, when to do it, why to do it and how to feel about it! Children learn by teachers presenting information and behaviour, repeating the information and behaviour and rewarding the accurate feedback of the information and/or behaviour. Television presents, repeats and rewards behaviour even more than teachers or parents do, because it occupies more time, delivers more information per minute and it is exciting, entertaining and captivating. So what are films and TV programmes presenting?
Do You Know What Your Child is Watching?
The average child, in a home with a television, by the time he or she leaves school, will have seen from 800000 to 1,5 million acts of violence, including 192000 to 360000 murders depicted on television (US News & World Report 15 April 1996).
The average child who watches TV sees 240000 to 480000 sexual acts or references to sex (including kissing, caressing, foreplay and intercourse) by the time they reach seventeen years old. (This does not include sexual acts or references they will see or hear in other media.) Premarital fornication and adultery on TV outnumbers sex within marriage by eight to one (Media Research Centre). Very seldom are movie or TV characters shown to reap the consequences of their actions. The heroine rarely gets pregnant and the fornicators never seem to be afflicted with herpes, gonorrhoea, syphilis, AIDS or any other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's). Dr. Ted Baehr in The Media-Wise Family has documented some of the tragic consequences of this irresponsible and exploitative media diet of immorality and violence:
Eric Smith (13 years old) who loved reading Stephen King novels and watching gruesome slasher movies, lured four year old Derrick Robie into the woods, bludgeoned his head with rocks and sodomized the dead body.
Scott Edward May, a seventeen year old obsessed with slasher movies, the occult and heavy metal music, attacked a girl during their first date. As she closed her eyes for a good night kiss, he stabbed her. They had just seen the movie “The Cutting Edge.” May told the police that he had had an urge to kill since childhood “I like knives . . . I like to go to the movies a lot. A lot of people get stabbed in the movies. I really liked the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A lot of people got stabbed in that.”
Fifteen year old Jason Lewis murdered his parents. Police found that Lewis worshipped Satan and along with three friends, had formulated a plan to kill all their parents and to copy the cross country murder spree portrayed in Oliver Stone's “Natural Born Killers.”
After being arrested for murdering an eighty-two-year old man, Christopher Smith (18 years old) shouted at the TV cameras: “I'm a natural born killer!” echoing the words of actor Woody Harrelson in the movie “Natural Born Killers.”
The same week that “Silence of the Lambs” won the Academy Award for “Best Picture”, a young man decapitated his handicapped mother and yelled “I'm Hannibal the Cannibal!” as he was led away by the police (Associated Press, 26 March 1993). After watching “Jungle Fever”, a thirteen year old boy raped his eight year old female cousin.
Dr. Robert Kubey in his “Media Use and its Implications” study noted that the primary messages of the media seem to be: “Materialism; For everything there is a quick fix; Young is better; Violence is acceptable; Sex is only good outside of marriage; Religion is unacceptable.”
Research indicated that people over 40 years old watch an average of six films a year in cinemas (Most of which are all ages or family films). Teenagers watch an average of 50 films a year in cinemas (80% of which are age restricted). Teenagers also watch another 50 movies a year on video (Teenage Research Institute, Wheaton, IL). This does not include broadcast television, video games, computer games, CD's, comics, magazines and the internet. Music Television (MTV) available in some homes by satellite is by far the worst form of media for teenagers. MTV averages 1500 sexual acts or references per hour! (US NEWS and World Report.) “I often wonder: Do movies influence the world, or does the world influence movies? What's influencing us more than we know is MTV!” Matthew Broderick.
No less a media authority than Ted Turner (of CNN) has declared that “everything we're exposed to influences us . . . Those violent films influence us, and the TV programmes influence us. The weaker your family is, the more they influence you . . . The problems with families in our cities are catastrophic but when you put violent programmes before people who haven't had a lot of love in their lives, who are angry anyway, it's like pouring gasoline on the fire.” (Los Angeles Times 3/4/1994).
Over 3000 psychiatric, psychological, medical, paediatric and sociological studies have researched the effects of the mass media on behaviour. The influence of the mass media on violent behaviour is now so thoroughly documented as to be irrefutable. (Media-Wise Family)
Even media executives are now acknowledging the media's role in contributing to violence in society. However, Michael Medved, an orthodox Jew who is a famous movie critic in the USA, reported this humorous, true story which gives us a disturbing insight into the thinking of many decision makers in Hollywood:
“After I criticized the irresponsible behaviour of the movie industry, one panelist, furious, replied that while Hollywood is always blamed for the bad it does, it's never given credit for its positive impact. 'You don't acknowledge that a movie like Lethal Weapon III saved thousands of lives” he said.
“I couldn't recall a life-giving message in this blood spattered thriller, so I asked what he meant.
“'Well," he replied, "in that movie, right before the big chase scene, there was an intense, three-second close-up showing Mel Gibson and Danny Glover fastening their seat belts!'
“He was suggesting that people would immediately imitate what they saw for three seconds, but the rest of the movie's ultra-violent 118 minutes would have no influence at all. Isn't that contradiction illogical and absurd?” (Hollywood's Three Big Lies, Readers Digest, Oct. '95)
It is very traumatic for young children to be introduced to sexual activity through explicit magazines, movies and videos. The invasion of pornographic materials into South Africa has been accompanied by an explosion of sexual crimes including rape. One judge who presided over 1 000 child sexual abuse cases found that all but four included pornography. He concluded that pornography fueled and assisted the seduction process that led to molestation (“Report on the Use of Pornography by Sexual Offenders,” Report to the Federal Department of Justice, Canada). Without pornography the child molestation would not have occurred or been possible to accomplish (Don't Touch That Dial).
The link between pornography and prostitution has also been repeatedly established (“Youth Prostitution in Child Sex Rings” Report). Yet in South Africa, only the ACDP has consistantly voted against all pornography.
As Marilyn Monroe mused: “Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you $10 000 for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul!” (Movieguide 1X:2)
Gregory Peck commented: “Generally, my characters were dignified and brave men who did their duty stoically. Today, the heroes are the anti-heroes of yesterday. They're motivated by hatred, greed and violence. They are rude, vulgar, ill-educated and incapable of making an effort because they are totally selfish and devoid of morals.” (The Cognac Film Festival, 1996).
And why are so many films so vulgar and crude? Studies have found that typically less than 7% of people curse on the job and only 12% curse in their leisure time. Yet many Hollywood scriptwriters would have us believe that normal people use profanity and obscenity in regular conversation. The famous Marxist professor Marcuse, of Sorbonne, advocated the use of foul language as a weapon with which to attack bourgeois society. Marcuse inspired many of the most renowned communist revolutionaries of the Twentieth Century. Even Jane Fonda studied under him. (Media-Wise Family)
Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci was a co-founder of the Italian Communist Party. Gramsci declared that to capture the Christian West one needed to “Marxise the inner man . . . to alter the Christian mind to turn it into its opposite in all its details so that it would become not merely a non-Christian mind but an anti-Christian mind.” This meant getting individuals to think about life's problems without reference to Christianity and the laws of God. Gramsci advocated a quiet revolution: “Everything must be done in the name of man's dignity and rights, and in the name of his autonomy and freedom from outside restraint. From the claims and constraints of Christianity above all.” Gramsci's slogan was “Capture the Culture!” And many Marxists in Hollywood continue their “long march through the institutions of the West” using art to influence politics. (Capturing the Culture: Film, Art and Politics by Richard Grenier) Oliver Stone, who directed Platoon, Salvador, JFK and Nixon always inserts his political bias into his movies. Stone bluntly declared: “America has to bleed. I think the corpses have to pile up. I think American boys have to die again. Let the mothers weep and mourn.” (New American, Jan. 92)
Similarly actress Jane Fonda (Agnes of God) and director Costa-Gravras (Betrayed and The Music Box) design their films to attack Christianity and/or to promote atheism or even communism.
Martin Scorsese (Director of The Last Temptation of Christ and Cape Fear) and Paul Schrader (Scriptwriter of The Last Temptation and Showgirls) both used to be theological students. Scorsese is an apostate whose intense hatred for Christianity is vented in his vile films.
But, of course, most films aren't that blatant. Most scriptwriters, directors and actors don't have such an obsessive anti-Christian axe to grind. Most are far more subtle, but they still have a message.
Nor can one rely upon age restrictions as a reliable guide. Even “all ages” family films can contain an anti-Christian message. In a blatant distortion of history, Disney twisted the story of Pocahontas to promote new age paganism. In fact, the main reason Pocahontas is famous, is because she was the first Indian convert to Christianity to be baptised in North America. Not that anyone seeing the Disney film would realise that.
Many Disney animated films are full of witches, demons, sorcerers, spells, genies and goblins but there is scarcely a mention of God. If prayer is depicted then invariably it's not to God but to “wish upon a star!” So what is the solution?
Clean The Screen 1. It is important that we recognise that immoral, violent, occultic and pagan films, videos, TV shows, magazines and computer games present a serious threat to the development of our children. “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11
2. Read up on the Biblical issues and the actual history so that you can recognise deception in the media. Read: “The Media-Wise Family” by Dr. Ted Baehr. Subscribe to Movieguide, 2510-G Las Posas Road 502, Camarillo, CA 93010 USA. Visit www.movieguide.org “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world.” Colossians 2:8
3. Obtain video documentaries that will help you alert your family, friends and congregation to the deceptions and dangers in many films: “Hollywood vs Religion”, “Learn to Discern”, “Hells Bells”, “The Media Wise Family”and “Death by Entertainment”. “They are to teach My people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.” Ezekiel 44:23
4. Be selective in your viewing choices. Take control over what is filling and forming your children's minds. Rediscover the joy of reading great books. Set proper priorities. Relegate films and videos to a subordinate position – below exercise, hiking, worship, fellowship, evangelism and service. “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11
5. Refuse to waste your time or money on immoral, anti-Christian films, but rather choose to support good, quality family films that honour God, such as: Ben Hur, The Robe, The Ten Commandments, Chariots of Fire, The Sound of Music, The Mission, First Knight, Christy, The Prince of Egypt and Gods and Generals. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
6. Pray for wisdom (James 1:5) and discernment (Proverbs 3:21). Learn to think critically. Teach your children Godly discernment. Discuss the film, its characters and message in the light of the Bible:
- Who is the hero?
- Who is the villain?
- What is the basic message of the film?
- How is the family portrayed?
- How is the Church portrayed?
- How is love portrayed?
- How true is the film to history?
- How is the conflict resolved in the film?
- What is the worldview of the film?
- Would you be embarrassed to sit through the film with your parents/your children/or the Lord Jesus?
- What would you have done differently if you were the main character in the story?
“So give Your servant a discerning heart . . . to distinguish between right and wrong . . . ” 1 Kings 3:9
7. Speak up for moral, God honouring entertainment and speak out against blasphemous, degrading and exploitative productions. Write to, or phone, producers of TV programmes, and scriptwriters, directors and producers of films (Movieguide regularly publishes these details with their film reviews). Be sure to praise the good as well as to protest againt the bad.
“Who will rise up for Me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for Me against evildoers?” Psalm 94:16
Get informed. Be discerning. Everytime you purchase a cinema ticket, rent or buy a video, you're casting a vote. Be sure that you only invest in family-friendly and God- honouring movies.
“Be very careful, then, how you live not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16.