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FIRST-PERSON: Teens and movies (part 1)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–Here’s something most teenagers probably don’t know: Studios once were regulated by a Motion Picture Code established in the 1930s to protect the values and moral concepts society considered the standard to live by. Violent acts had to be filmed in a way that would not jolt the viewer. Actors could not utter “God” or “Jesus” in a profane manner. And nudity and perversity could not be shown.

The release of Universal’s remake of “The Wolfman” is a prime example of how things have changed. The 1941 version was one of the ultimate good vs. evil parables. Its screenwriter, Curt Siodmak, a German Jew of Polish descent, fled Europe in the 1930s having seen the transformation of good people into monsters before World War II and Hitler’s determined annihilation of the Jewish race. Siodmak’s theme had to do with evil overcoming the unaware, his story a metaphor for being on the alert against rising evil.

This earlier version, which starred Lon Chaney Jr., had its share of violent acts. After all, we are talking about man-killing man-wolves. That film, however, was more eerie than graphic. Is the new version still an allegory, a good vs. evil parable? Faintly. Can you guess what overshadows any symbolic significance? You got it — gore galore. The new release contains no profanity or graphic sexuality, but beware, you’re going to see lots of intestines and dismembered body parts. I know, some of my younger readers just said, “Cool.”

The Motion Picture Code is long gone, replaced by the more lax MPAA rating system. If you parents feel this warning system is lacking, and if you teens want to take a stand for your spiritual convictions, there are steps that can be taken when choosing a movie. But if you’re looking for an easy fix, there isn’t one. The movie industry moguls take no responsibility for what we view. It’s up to us. The first step is to retrain our viewing habits.

Here are a few questions teens should ask themselves when choosing movies:

— Do you believe the Bible truly to be the Word of God?

— Do you study His word? (Have you asked God to reveal Himself through its chapters and verses?)

— Can you see through the propaganda of the media? (You will if your follow those first two objectives.)

— Is your support of a film or TV program going to affect your witness?

— If Jesus were standing next to you, would you go see that film? (He is standing there, you know.)


As adults, if we closely monitor what we support at the box office, it honors God, nurtures loved ones, and is a guidepost for those who scrutinize our walk — especially youngsters who put more import on what adults do than what they say. The following suggestions may be helpful to parents and their children.

— Be careful what you support. How often have you heard this: “You’ve got to see this film! Jack Nicholson is fabulous!!” Well, Jack Nicholson has been making movies for 40 years; he should be fabulous. But is a good performance reason enough to support a film?

— Be informed. Ever hear this one? “If you haven’t seen the film, how can you object to it?” There are now several resources you can turn to for film reviews. Armed with a film’s synopsis and content (the reason for the rating), you can discuss a film intelligently without having to subject yourself to objectionable content.

— Communicate with your kids. Years ago, when the first “Batman” was released, several parents asked me: “Should I let my kids see this movie?” I stated that I would hate to be the one who told his teen boy he couldn’t see “Batman.” Every adolescent male in the country wanted to see that picture. I’ll bet many of the children who were instructed not to attend such a film saw it anyway.

The realization is, you can’t protect your children from all of Hollywood’s influence. MTV’s images and those from the local cinema influence your children whether they view it or not, because the media’s messages affect their friends, who, in turn, affect them. So I propose that what is even more important than saying “no” to various movies is for your kids to say “yes” to Bible study.

Come back tomorrow for the final part in this series. I’ll offer up some DVD suggestions for teenagers.
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective and is the author of “Movies: The Good, The Bad, and the Really, Really Bad.” Read his film reviews at previewonline.org.

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  • Phil Boatwright