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FIRST-PERSON: Hollywood’s real motive

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–I once thought the movie industry was motivated purely by profit. I believed that films were fraught with vice, violence and vulgarity because of public demand. Hollywood had convinced me that it was just giving moviegoers what they wanted.

A closer examination of news reports recently has caused me to rethink Hollywood’s motives.

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 R ratings.

For years the only G-rated films Hollywood produced were animated. Since 2001, Tinseltown has produced four films that were G rated and not cartoons. Among the titles were “The Princess Diaries” and “The Rookie.”

While none of the non-animated G-rated movies enjoyed the publicity of more hyped R and PG-13 films, each had respectable and profitable showings at the box office.

Despite the positive performance of PG and G rated films, the movie industry continues to churn out filth-filled flicks. If Hollywood is so motivated by profit, then why is it not producing more family friendly fare?

The debate over the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005 provides a clue.

The FECA, signed into law April 27 by President Bush, provides protection to filtering technology that enables an individual to skip or mute sections of a DVD movie they deem objectionable. It protects the companies — ClearPlay being the industry leader — from lawsuits. ClearPlay produces DVD player software that allows consumers to avoid offensive content.

The Directors Guild of America (DGA) objected to FECA, arguing that allowing the content of their films to be skipped would violate their “artistic vision” as well as “freedom of expression guaranteed in the First Amendment.”

There you have it, the motive of the DGA is not profit; it is to spread an artistic vision to the masses. If it were about money, the directors would be applauding FECA. With its passage there is no doubt they will sell more DVD versions of their films than ever before.

Case in point: I saw “Friday Night Lights” (a movie about Texas high school football) in a theater this past fall. Though rated PG-13, I was very uncomfortable with the language and sexual content in the film. There was no way I was going to allow my 14-year-old son to view it.

I recently purchased an edited version of “Lights” from a company that provides cleaned-up copies of original films. The unnecessary sexual content was gone, as was the vulgar language. I was pleased with the finished product.

Thanks to the editing company, Hollywood had a sale it otherwise would have lost. I plan on purchasing edited versions of other movies and I am certain that I am not alone.

For the Directors Guild of America to charge that the new law infringes upon its First Amendment right of expression rings hollow. Theaters will still show movies unedited with all of a director’s crass, salacious and titillating expression intact. FECA only applies to DVDs purchased by a consumer.

At least the DGA is honest when it maintains its desire to protect the “artistic vision” of films. The directors have tipped their collective hands. They are motivated by the desire to impact viewers with a message –- their “artistic vision” of reality.

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.

DVD filtering technology has helped put the squeeze on Hollywood’s directors and they are spewing the truth. Money is not their primary motive. Rather, is an “artistic agenda” that is often both indecent and immoral.
Kelly Boggs, whose column appears each Friday in Baptist Press, is pastor of the Portland-area Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs