KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–I’m 57 years old. I make that declaration freely and without reservation, despite the fact that many of my younger readers will think me old. While I am aware that I am well beyond the intended demographic movie studios now seek to please, still, when it comes to movies, there’s something to be said for having been born when everyone liked Ike.
When I began going to movies, they still starred Henry Fonda and John Wayne and Spencer Tracy. Sean Connery became James Bond when I was ten. Jerry Lewis became “The Nutty Professor” when I was eleven. And the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” nearly ended the careers of many a barber when I was twelve. Throughout my first decade of movie appreciation, however, Mom and Dad were never concerned about what I might see at the local bijou. The Motion Picture Code was still in effect and filmmakers couldn’t curse God or incorporate desensitizing amounts of violence. And Marilyn Monroe had to keep her clothes on.
Well, all that changed: Jane Fonda’s 1967 “Barbarella” was nude during the opening credits; in 1966, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton proved they weren’t “Afraid of Virginia Woolf” nor of the consequences of profaning God’s name in a movie; and a guy named Peckinpah gunned downed a “Wild Bunch” in slo-mo the summer of 1969.
Forty-some years later, it seems almost impossible to find “family” entertainment from major studios that doesn’t bombard the audience with violent imagery, sexuality and language.
If you take a comedy from every decade you’ll see the change in sensibilities, both in the people making movies and those attending. Same goes for horror flicks or romantic dramas or even westerns. But the genre most affected by excess is the sci-fi action adventure. And if there are giant robots from space warring each other on our tiny planet, you can rest assured, it’s going to be fast, furious and foul-tongued.
Compare the presentation of robots from space:
— “Forbidden Planet” (1956). This ’50s sci-fi adventure borrowed themes of profundity from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” having space explorers landing on a planet dominated by one man and an unknown, deadly force. Robbie the Robot made his first appearance. Though campy, it was fun, inventive and engrossing — it even contained two lines showing a belief in and respect for God.
— “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” (2009). This one has little to do with profound themes. It’s about CGI and endless mayhem. It has more than 30 curse words and is loaded with sexuality. And since it aims at the 14-year-old in every male, the screenplay also incorporates crudity masking as humor.
As the old story goes, if you place a frog in boiling water, he’ll jump out. But if you place him in room-temperature liquid, slowly raising the heat level, he’ll remain until he, ahem, croaks. Over the past several decades, the media has simmered society in a stew of moral ambiguity, excusing their offenses with “Hey, it’s only a movie.” And like that poor frog, we Christians have adjusted ourselves to the same numbing content as everyone else.
So what do we do?
More important than keeping the world’s perspective out of our kids’ heads is to get biblical instruction in. So allow me to pass along something that has influenced my spiritual growth. When I was about eight, my parents rededicated themselves to Christ. Bible study and prayer soon became a part of our lives. Before Dad went to work, we began our day by reading Scripture and kneeling in prayer. When a father heads such a regimen, it drives home a lasting message to his children. (“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it,” Proverbs 22:6.) Knowing God’s Word will help us see through any ungodly standards that creep into our daily lives.
Most likely, we aren’t going to change Hollywood. The question is, will Hollywood change us?
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective and is the author of “Movies: The Good, The Bad, and the Really, Really Bad.” For details on the book, visit previewonline.org.