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 ↑
David Outten contributed significantly to this column.
As the April 15 tax deadline approaches, you have good reason to thank Hollywood for higher taxes.
Consider the federal budget. A large portion of that budget is for means-tested welfare programs. A high percentage of the people on means-tested welfare programs are there because they’ve abandoned the traditional values the major Hollywood studios once guarded.
When Hollywood had standards
Few Americans today know that the major movie studios used to voluntarily abide by a strong moral code when writing scripts and producing movies. It wasn’t censorship imposed by the government. It was a social contract with the American people. This set of standards was called The Motion Picture Production Code. Movies that complied with it got a seal of approval, and the church advised the Production Code, through the Catholic Legion of Decency and the Protestant Film Office. These were the standards stipulated by the short form of the Code:
The basic dignity and value of human life shall be respected and upheld.
Restraint shall be exercised in portraying the taking of life.
Evil, sin, crime and wrongdoing shall not be justified.
Detailed and protracted acts of brutality, cruelty, physical violence, torture, and abuse, shall not be presented.
Indecent or undue exposure of the human body shall not be presented.
Illicit sex relationships shall not be justified. Intimate sex scenes violating common standards of decency shall not be portrayed. Restraint and care shall be exercised in presentations dealing with sex aberrations.
Obscene speech, gestures or movements shall not be presented. Undue profanity shall not be presented.
Religion shall not be demeaned.
Words or symbols contemptuous of racial, religious or national groups, shall not be used so as to incite bigotry or hatred.
Excessive cruelty to animals shall not be portrayed and animals shall not be treated inhumanely.
This was the Association of Motion Picture Producers’ explanation of why the code existed:
“Mankind has always recognized the importance of entertainment and its value in rebuilding the bodies and souls of human beings.
“But, it has always recognized that entertainment can be either HELPFUL or HARMFUL to the human race, and in consequence has clearly distinguished between:
“a. Entertainment which tends to improve the race, or at least to re-create and rebuild human beings exhausted with the realities of life; and
“b. Entertainment which tends to degrade human beings, or to lower their standards of life and living.
“Hence the MORAL IMPORTANCE of entertainment is something which has been universally recognized. It enters intimately into the lives of men and women and affects them closely; it occupies their minds and affections during leisure hours; and ultimately touches the whole of their lives. A man may be judged by his standard of entertainment as easily as by the standard of his work.
“So, correct entertainment raises the whole standard of a nation.
“Wrong entertainment lowers the whole living conditions and moral ideals of a race.”
Can you imagine today’s movie executives, producers and directors signing their names in agreement to such a statement?
Obviously, if the Motion Picture Production Code were in place now, many of today’s movies would never get made. Those that did would contain far less offensive content. Hollywood would actually make more money because their movies would be less offensive worldwide. But, the point of discussing The Motion Picture Production Code in this column is to reveal the impact of its demise on taxpayers.
When Hollywood lost its standards
In the late 1950s, the Catholic Church pulled back from its enforcement of the Code. Then, in 1966, lack of funding and support forced the Protestant Film Office to close its doors.
Immediately, the Code was revised to include a rating “suggested for mature audiences.” Two years later, on Nov. 1, 1968, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) instituted a new ratings system for movies (G, GP, R and X). After some revisions, the ratings are now G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17.
These ratings offer moviegoers no production standards. You are free to make anything and see what rating you get. In an R-rated movie, you can blatantly violate all the standards of the old code.
Movies came pouring out of Hollywood promoting sex outside of marriage, ridiculing religion, containing heavy doses of obscenities and profanity and generally promoting a radical cultural revolution. The revolution occurred. There was a huge increase in births out of wedlock, abortion, divorce, single parenthood, welfare, taxes and public debt. As our $16 trillion national debt shows, the government simply can’t keep up with the rising cost of a culture with lower moral standards.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats can devise government programs to reverse cultural decline. Public schools are actually increasing the problem by acting as if a supposed requirement to separate church and state is a requirement to promote immorality and disbelief in God. Money poured into a “war on poverty” only increases poverty when people perceive that they can be receive more government benefits if they abandon traditional morality.
The problem is in our media. Children grow up in a virtual flood of media telling girls they need to compete as sex objects and telling boys they must have sex as soon and as often as possible. The concept of love has shifted from a commitment to unselfish behavior to the temporary thrill of infatuation. The “love the one you’re with” generation views sex as something akin to going to a restaurant. You don’t eat the same meal every night, so why sleep with the same partner?
No government program can stop the destructive results of such thinking. All politicians can do is try to pay for the disasters that result.
The real solution
The media that have for years pushed “love the one you’re with” can be used to show the benefits of true love. Movies like “Fireproof” and “Courageous” tackle these issues and show the benefits of holding traditional values. Without a major outcry from the American public, Hollywood will not return to a Motion Picture Production Code. Until then, however, it’s possible to show Hollywood that family-friendly movies make lots more money than offensive movies.
When you purchase a ticket to a movie, you are voting for the kinds of movies that will be made in the future. The major studios once thought audiences wanted sex and nudity. They provided a lot of both. With the help of detailed box office analysis by the Christian Film & Television Commission® and Movieguide®, they’ve learned sex and nudity have a very limited audience. The majority of moviegoers want less sex, nudity and vulgarity.
The major studios see that year after year animated family movies rank among the top 10 in domestic and foreign box office as well as DVD sales. The movie “The Passion of the Christ” showed that there’s a huge audience for strong Christian content. Back in the 1950s the biggest budget movies made by the major studios were often openly Christian or biblical. Christian, biblical movies like “Quo Vadis,” Ben Hur” and “The Ten Commandments” each cost a fortune and made a fortune.
The real America
The average American doesn’t appreciate the vulgarity that’s infiltrated the culture. Many, if not most, are concerned about what they consider moral decline. Virtually all who pay taxes see the rapidly growing national debt as a curse on future generations. Any logical American can see that when 41 percent of babies are born out of wedlock, it represents a catastrophe for taxpayers.
Lax moral values prevalent in Hollywood are being heavily promoted around the world, but most Americans know that the “love the one you’re with” philosophy is unhealthy. Beyond its adverse impact on physical and spiritual health, it’s become a recipe for economic and political disaster.
President John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” America will not survive without a large number of taxpayers who choose to live by high moral standards. That includes being willing to pay more for government than they demand from government in benefits.
Investing in America
On April 15 you’ll make a large “investment” in government programs created to help the “victims” of America’s moral collapse. The deeper the cultural declines get, the more you’ll be required to “invest.”
On the other hand, you can invest in reversing the decline. You can buy tickets exclusively to good movies. You can choose to watch only wholesome television programming. You can help support the Christian Film & Television Commission® and Movieguide®.
Redeeming the media is not a project that can be completed overnight. It requires long-term commitment and patience. It requires a lot of prayer and work, but it can be done.
Ask yourself: What is a civilized society? What kind of society would you like to leave your grandchildren?
Would you prefer more vulgarity or less? Would you prefer the promotion of faithful traditional marriage or more marriage-free sexual relationships? Would you prefer your grandchildren grow up in a traditional family or a “modern” family? Would you rather experience more of heaven on earth or more hell on earth?
God’s standards are literally heavenly. The world’s standards are hellish. As a human being, you should want to see American culture move in the direction of the heavenly. As a taxpayer, you’d be wise to voluntarily invest in redeeming the media before the lame-brain, lying, lewd liberal leftist loons in your government demand even more from you to pay for hell on earth the mass media have created.
From here to eternity
There is Good News in Hollywood.
Since we were called by God to redeem the values of the mass media of entertainment, we have seen more and more of the results of our strategic efforts to clean the screens because 1) the number of pro-Christian movies has increased dramatically; 2) Hollywood studios have developed working relationships with us; and 3) more and more top Hollywood executives and creative talent have joined with us to produce better movies and entertainment.
Furthermore, most of the six major studios,and some of the biggest independent studios in Hollywood have developed separate divisions making and releasing movies and videos for the Christian and faith audience in the last few years, such as “Fireproof,” “The Blind Side,” “Amazing Grace,” “The Grace Card,” “Soul Surfer,” “Courageous” and Tyler Perry’s movies and television programs.
Also, more and more Christians in the entertainment industry have made their beliefs a matter of record; more key media executives accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior; Movieguide® has reached more industry leaders who have accepted responsibility for their productions; and more teenagers and moral adults became serious about the impact of the mass media of entertainment on their lives and sought our help in choosing the good and rejecting the bad and in developing the skills necessary to use (without being abused by) the mass media of entertainment.
Consequently, there are now more family movies and more movies with positive Christian content and positive Christian worldviews than since the end of the Golden Age of Hollywood in 1966.
You play a critical role in helping us reach top opinion leaders with the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Producing the Annual Movieguide® Report costs a lot of time, money and effort, not to mention prayer! The support of our readers, donors and prayer warriors is essential.
The good news is that you and your family don’t have to see bad movies or bad television. And, Hollywood doesn’t have to make bad TV and movies in order to make good profits.
The better news is that we have the tools to help people make wise choices, and to help them teach their children how to make wise choices, such as our MEDIA-WISE FAMILY™ and CULTURE-WISE FAMILY™ resources. You can access these tools by visiting www.movieguide.org or calling 1-800-899-6684.
Real, lasting beauty delights in truth, justice and goodness. Furthermore, as our Annual Report shows, most moviegoers and entertainment consumers (as well as those who don’t watch, read or listen) want to see good conquer evil, truth triumph over falsehood, justice prevail over injustice and beauty overcome ugliness. Furthermore, most people with families like to share their leisure time with their whole family, not only their children but also their grandparents, more often.
Movieguide® and its many resources are here to help the public and entertainment industry leaders redeem the values of that industry and transform the culture, to the Eternal Glory of God and His Kingdom Come, and for the benefit of future generations – our children and grandchildren.
Together, we can accomplish this, with help and guidance from God by the Holy Spirit.
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.