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FIRST-PERSON: What ‘we’ — or ‘they’ — send overseas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–“You Americans have a lot to answer for.” I have heard this bad rap twice recently, interestingly both times from visa-toting Australians making their living off the very people they say have much to answer for. They weren’t talking politics, although I suspect that going down that road would have been just as frustrating. Rather, they were referring to the movies “we” send around the world.

A confrontational approach has never served me quite as effectively as, say, John Wayne, but I did feel it necessary to point out that the movies in question are imported to us, as well. They come from a distant land known as Hollywood -– Tinseltown, Hollyweird, the Land of Oz –- a country that has been christened with many a pseudonym that implies dysfunction. We support their product out of the same hope that any nationality has when entering a cineplex -– we’re just hoping to be entertained.

Of course I can’t speak for hormonally charged 14-year-old boys or the followers of Howard Stern, but when looking for drama, most Americans generally want something that will move or inspire. If choosing a comedy, Americans aren’t purposely looking for something crude and vulgar. We just want to be amused. And when it comes to action, Americans want to see justice conquer villainy, the put-upon little guy finally having a moment of triumph. Unfortunately, Americans are too often given the movie equivalent of Hamburger Helper rather than Filet Mignon.

As for the Australians’ denouncement, when was the last time a studio head asked your opinion concerning products sent overseas? Americans don’t send inane or profane movies to foreign countries -– Hollywoodland does.

The irony in this debate is that when conservatives or the “religious right” do voice their opposition to the deleterious content of the media, that protest is usually met with ridicule by the very people who claim we have a lot to answer for.

It appears that those anxious to blame the U.S. for the ills of the world want us to repair the damage so long as we don’t do it from a conservative or religious stance. Well, in the movies of today, most that contain the objectionable content do not reflect conservative or religious viewpoints, but rather the greed and irresponsibility of the liberal-mobbed entertainment community.

Confronting America’s detractors with that reasoning brought up the following accusation: “Well, if you Americans didn’t support these movies, they wouldn’t be sent to other countries.” Not so. Quite a few movies that bombed here have made many a Deutschmark or Franc across the sea. Indeed, many films considered either inane or abusive by both critics and audiences alike in the United States have caught the imagination of people in other nations.

Hollywood will always gear its products toward the lowest common denominator. They will aim at our baser instincts –- because we all have them and baser instincts are easier to satisfy than those of a more eternal value. Even those of us desiring to build up our spiritual muscles occasionally support something that does just the opposite. It’s an oft-communicated suggestion, but a grounded one: We need to be careful of what we support at the box office. It may not make a big difference to the world, but it will make an important one to those around us.

There are exceptions, but generally, those who govern the mediums of television and the cinema seldom seek to develop the consciousness of mankind through biblical principles. Now, I don’t mean that piously. Rather, it is a reminder that whatever the secular culture embraces, we who follow the teachings of Jesus need to show our fellow man what we stand for -– make that what He stands for.

It isn’t America, or even Hollywood, that’s to blame for the world’s condition, but each heart that demands his or her own way over the Creator’s. It isn’t just enough to believe in God; we have to reverence Him and seek His direction. And if we govern what we support at the box office, it is honoring to God, nurturing to loved ones and a guidepost to those who scrutinize our walk.
Phil Boatwright, at [email protected], reviews film from a Christian perspective.

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  • Phil Boatwright