Saturday, June 30, 2012

Has Hollywood Found Religion? - Part 3

Do movies today reflect more of a Christian or Biblical worldview? Has Hollywood found religion?

There is no question that the overall content from the six major studios, Disney, Fox, Universal, Warner Brothers, Sony and Paramount, has substantially improved since the early 1990s. There are more movies being produced that reflect positive values and redemptive messages. I’m not sure a film like The Blind Side would have been made 15 years ago.

I believe there are four reasons that explain this turnaround in positive content as well as three issues that we should be concerned about. In other words, it’s not time to throw a party and celebrate yet.

Issues of Concern or I’m about ready to rain on your parade.

Issue 1

Only one in six movies is produced and distributed by the six major studios. That leaves about 500-600 other movies receiving some form of distribution in North America. Where do these films come from? They originate from mid-level studios such as Lions Gate, First Look Studios, Magnolia and others, direct-to-video production companies and independent distributors. If you are looking for plenty of graphic violence, sex, nudity, bad language and other forms of debauchery, you have found it in this lot.

I wish I could tell you I have seen some improvement from films released from non-major studios, but that’s not the case. We need to see improvement in this area. That’s not to say there are not a few movies being produced and distributed from mid-level and independents that offer some redemptive value or Christian content, but it’s very slim.

The emphasis here is on action and especially horror films specializing in torture with plenty of blood and guts. It’s not a pretty picture. This is an area where we need to get more Christians involved in creating independent features that reflect God’s glory and truth.

Some may argue that most people will not see these films in this category. I disagree. Obviously, most receive little or no theatrical distribution, but they do find a substantial life in home video and especially pay cable networks such as HBO, Cinemax and Showtime. The bottom line is they make up the bulk of movies produced annually. And that means they have a big impact.

Issue 2

Feature films from the major studios are only part of the huge media picture. It’s true that Hollywood’s big studios are producing more morally-based content. But that’s only part of a big picture. We have a long ways to go. Video games offer an abundance of violent images which seem to be out of control. Internet-based content offers plenty of problems as well. And, frankly, television hasn’t improved that much over the past ten years. The fact is most people think about spending $10 before they go to the movies. They want something worth their money. So they are less likely to waste their hard earned cash on trash. But often we don’t feel the same way watching a television program because we are paying for it indirectly.

Issue 3

The overall narrative of the media culture hasn’t significantly changed in the past 20 years. We are going to need a lot more from Hollywood’s major studios in order to have any significant impact on the media culture. The message is basically the same. You are the center of your own universe, and you deserve to have everything now. It’s a very self-centered concept, but it is the very heart of today’s media culture. And, in some form, most electronic entertainment and images supports this concept. Frankly, we should celebrate any film that is in direct opposition to this core message. For example, I mentioned earlier two R-rated films from last year, Crazy Heart and Up in the Air. In each film, the main character or protagonist came to an Ah-hah moment in which they realized that there was more to life than their own pursuits, that other people mattered and life did not revolve around what they wanted.

When you embrace this idea, it offers the opportunity for God to enter your life. That’s an important concept to consider. But most media does not embrace this philosophy but rather encourages you to do whatever makes you happy and fulfills your desires.

The Bottom Line

I guess the question is are you a person who sees the glass half empty or half full. What I like to think is that I’m both. I believe in order to have a full glass, you need to understand why the glass is half full. It’s only then that you can move on and achieve the results I think we are all looking for. I want to change the media, specifically the media culture. In order to do that, we need a realistic and honest approach in how we view the media.

The Christian Film and Television Commission’s report to the entertainment industry offers hope for the future. There’s much to be optimistic about. But we have substantial work to do. I just think we should thank God for what he is doing. But, perhaps, this is not the time to celebrate or throw a party. Let’s continue to focus on the issue at hand and change the face of media as we know it.

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