Dr. Ted Baehr is the founder and publisher of MOVIEGUIDE, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission, and a well-known movie critic, educator, lecturer and media pundit. He also is the author of several books, including "The Culture-Wise Family" with legendary entertainer Pat Boone. For more information, please call 800-899-6684 or go to the MOVIEGUIDE website.More ↓Less ↑
A recent article in the New York Times commended Christian ministries for abandoning boycotts in favor of reviewing movies. Although the article was helpful to MOVIEGUIDE?, it was very subtly, though perhaps innocently, disingenuous because it may lead an already confused church down the primrose path of irrelevant subjective movie reviewing.
In fact, one major ministry called me all excited about the article and assuming that reviews would change the Entertainment Industry, while boycotts were counterproductive. Neither of these two positions is true.
Most reviews wield very little influence on audiences and even less on movie studios. To influence the entertainment industry, reviews need to be comprehensive, consistent and based on standards that provide practical tools to help the key industry people understand how the movie will perform at the box office. The analysis should be translatable into economic terms that are accurate and insightful.
To help audiences, the reviews must understand the stages of development of children and how to train them in media wisdom. Furthermore, the reviews need to be based on God’s standards, not ours. One Christian review service asked its readers what they thought about how they should review homosexual movies. Frankly, it does not matter what their readers think about moral issues, it matters what God thinks as He set it forth in His Word written, the Bible.
Boycotts that are focused and based on clear standards do work. Misconceptions that the boycott of “Last Temptation Of Christ” helped the movie are wrong. In reality, “Last Temptation Of Christ” made only a pitiful $8.3 million at the box office from a very small audience of around 1.5 million people out of 275 million Americans. The boycott of “Kinsey” was also highly successful. Therefore, under the right circumstances, boycotts are an important tool of cultural influence.
The question raised by the radio interview subsequent to the New York Times article was how to influence and redeem the culture of the entertainment industry. The Christian Film & Television Commission? ministry has been doing just that by teaching audiences media-wisdom and by our advocacy work in Hollywood. Our MOVIEGUIDE? reviews are part of this comprehensive ministry and mission.
The Christian Film & Television Commission? is a non-profit ministry whose primary purpose is to redeem the values of the entertainment industry according to biblical principles and traditional Christian values.
The good news is that several new Christian media ministries are trying to accomplish this to one extent or another, but almost all of them fail to realize how to do it properly. It takes more than just reviews and boycotts. With regard to the MOVIEGUIDE? aspect of the Commission’s mission and ministry, accomplishing our God-given mission requires a comprehensive set of rational, perceptive, informed, enlightened and wise standards applied in an intelligent, prudent, judicious and biblical manner.
“To commend those who do right” (1 Peter 2:14) and to expose “the fruitless deeds of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11).
Those are the Bible passages that inform MOVIEGUIDE?’s mission to redeem the values of the entertainment industry according to biblical principles and Christian values.
To which we might add the following verse from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
We carry out this mission by analyzing all the major movies released in theaters in North America. We then present our findings to the public on television, radio, the Internet and in print, so that we can help Christians, parents, children, teenagers and adults, including entertainment-industry executives, understand movies and entertainment from an objective and biblical worldview. We also help the public to choose the good, reject the bad and, thereby, influence the movie industry and their culture.
MOVIEGUIDE? has been analyzing movies in depth since 1985. Over the years, we have developed a comprehensive method of analyzing movies that helps us pinpoint which movies will succeed and why.
Adam Smith, the father of free-market economics, broke with the tradition of his peers by not studying failure, but by studying success. In the process, he came up with the most successful economic model ever!
This is exactly what MOVIEGUIDE? tries to do in its comprehensive system of analyzing movies.
To understand the economic viability of a movie, we look at its entertainment and artistic value and then beyond that at its production value, content, worldview, philosophy, theology, politics, economics, genre, themes, characters, actors and much, much more. Through its analysis, MOVIEGUIDE? has consistently chosen 25 to 40 percent of the winners at the box office, whereas other groups and critics have consistently chosen 0 to 8 percent of the winners.
MOVIEGUIDE? has found that movies that adhere to traditional Christian values and biblical morality consistently outperform all other categories.
We bring this comprehensive system to bear on film finance to help give a better experience to those who want to improve the entertainment industry.
Box office figures are the truest measure of what the public chooses to see in movies. For instance, in 2004, seven of MOVIEGUIDE?’s top picks for Best Family Movies and Best Movies for Mature Audiences, including “The Passion Of The Christ,” “The Incredibles,” “Spider-Man 2,” and “Collateral,” made it into the Top 25 Movies at the Box Office for North America.
In contrast to this, only one of Roger Ebert’s top choices, “Spider-Man 2,” and none of his fellow critic Richard Roeper’s top picks, made it into the Top 25.
The MOVIEGUIDE? critics and judges also beat out such renowned critic associations as the American Film Institute, the National Board of Review and the Broadcast Film Critics.
Clearly, MOVIEGUIDE? understands what audiences want by analyzing movies in a comprehensive way. We try to look at each movie in the following ways, among others:
Aesthetically: By looking at the artistic value of the movie and by looking at how well the movie is made, just as other reviewers do.
Emotively: By looking at how the movie captures and amuses the audience as entertainment and amusement.
Semantically: By looking at the individual elements, such as words, sexual content, nudity, and incidents of violence, and their meanings, just as many parents do.
Syntactically: By looking at how the elements of the film come together and how the pieces and characters relate to each other, just as many teenagers and single adults do.
Propositionally: By looking at what the movie is communicating as summarized in the premise of the movie.
Thematically: By looking at the themes present in the movie.
Generically: By comparing it to other movies in its genre.
Morally: By looking at its moral perspective and content.
Biblically: By looking at the biblical perspective and biblical principles in the movie.
Cognitively: By looking at the age group to whom the movie is marketed, the age group for whom it is suitable, and how it will impact particular age groups.
Systematically: By looking at how the movie relates to other movies.
Economically: By looking at how it does at the box office and how its box office gross compares to other movies.
Intellectually: By looking at how the movie fulfills its goals and premise.
Sociologically: By looking at how the movie relates to culture and society.
Politically: By looking at the movie’s political perspective.
Psychologically: By looking at how the movie deals with the mind and soul.
Historically: By looking at how accurate the movie is in presenting history.
Sexually: By looking at how the movie deals with sex and sexual relationships.
Philosophically: By looking at the philosophical perspective and the dominant worldview and other worldview elements of the movie.
Ontologically: By looking at how the movie deals with the nature of being.
Epistemologically: By looking at how the movie deals with the nature of knowing.
Spiritually: By looking at how the movie deals with God, faith and religion.
To do all these things properly not only takes a knowledge of basic critical standards and movies, including the history of movies and film theory, it also takes a philosophical knowledge that takes into account what Dr. John Warwick Montgomery once called in one of his lectures, the queen, or handmaiden, of philosophy – theology.
That’s the level of knowledge expected of the editors and writers who work at MOVIEGUIDE?, and that’s the level of knowledge that Christians should demand from MOVIEGUIDE? and from all other Christian leaders in the burgeoning missions field of mass-media ministries.
The good news is that concerned and discerning moviegoers trust MOVIEGUIDE?. Our website has 2 to 3 million page views per month. The next biggest site that supposedly reviews from a Christian perspective gets 1 million page views per month. The next gets 800,000, followed by another with 125,000.
Parents, children and other moviegoers write us to say that they trust MOVIEGUIDE?. Why? Because we use comprehensive critical tools to review movies. Entertainment-industry executives also call to tell us how helpful and important our reviews are because we give them accurate, verifiable information based on objective standards, not subjective whims.
In other words, come to www.movieguide.org where you can know before your family goes to a movie. We are here to serve you and Him.