Kelly Boggs has written another critique of American culture that has me thinking. In his recent article he explains that he used to believe Hollywood was driven by money, and that was why they made "violent and vulgar" movies. People want to see those movies. But as recent studies have shown, the top box office hits are often rated PG. He writes,
According to a variety of sources that track movie performance, PG films grossed more at the box office than did R-rated titles in 2004. In fact, five of the top-10 moneymakers were PG flicks. Out of the top 25 movies of last year, only four carried Rratings.
(Read article at BP News)
He is now convinced that the reason the film industry continues to make "filth-filled flicks" that might not make as much money as the kid-friendly fare is because of an "agenda."
Now we know the real reason the movie industry eschews family friendly films for movies steeped in sexuality, brutality and obscenity. The driving force for too many directors is an agenda that not only calls into question, but also undermines traditional morality.
Yep, Boggs says there is an agenda (though he never tells us what that agenda is!) that undermines traditional values. These directors aren't driven by profit, but by some malevolent cause. A plan to chip away at traditional morality. He argues that this is seen in movie makers objection to new technology that would allow viewers to edit words and content out of films. I would like to respond in three ways.
1. The "movie industry" is made up of business men who are seeking to make a profit, and artists who desire to make something worth consideration. Yes there is overlap, but I am speaking in generalities. A peek into this can be seen in the most recent season of Project Greenlight. In this reality series chronicling the making of a genre-film the studio heads are pushing for a movie that will make money, but the writers and director want to make something fun and thrilling. My point here is that when we talk about the "movie industry" it is easy to demonize the whole, imagining it to be some big, evil machine out to destroy all that is holy and good. It's very easy if you don't really know much about the film industry. But we're talking about artists and businessmen here. People.
2. Research does show that the top grossing movies are often kid friendly. Despite this film makers continue to produce R rated films that are harder, darker, uglier, or more offensive in content. Why? If you ask them, read their interviews or listen to the commentary tracks on DVDs they explain why the make what they make. The goal (agenda?) is to make something worth watching, something beautiful, or real, telling or fun - like all artists they are attempting to elicit feeling and thought from a viewer. But what really bothers me is that Boggs is essentially accusing his neighbor of some hidden agenda. It is more likely to me that the objectionable art some make simply reflects their own values - or lack thereof - and is not an attempt to undermine "family values." Wouldn't the art, if not about money, be more about the artist's pain, joy, hopes, dreams, beliefs, etc. This doesn't make sin okay, or poor art good. I am not excusing the excesses or sin in the world, but neither can I excuse the unjust judgment a Christian makes against our neighbors.
3. Yeah, the artists don't want people editing their art. No kidding. Neither would I! I'll agree with Boggs that much of what Hollywood puts out is unfit for our kids. Some of it is unfit for anyone. But I think the whole idea of asking artists to edit their films so our kids can watch them is curious. Why is pop-culture so important to someone who is clearly at odds with it? If you want the film-industry to make more family-friendly movies, find ways of encouraging that. But is it critical that your children watch Friday Night Lights? Look, if the art is inappropriate, don't allow your children to watch it. Some movies may be inappropriate to watch, and some may only be appropriate for more mature audiences. The answer is not cleaning up a "dirty" movie, but in choosing more suitable entertainment and creating different films.
I believe Boggs has once again ably misunderstood his culture, and is addressing a symptom instead of the disease. The diagnosis is wrong, and no remedy is prescribed.
For help in choosing movies that are safe for your family to watch try using tools like ScreenIt.Com. Chris Keenon has created a blog that looks deeper into pop-culture's art from a Christian perspective, and he has some good thoughts for adults to consider.