Something most teenagers don't know: studios were once 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 Wolf Man 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 WWII 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.
Questions teenagers should ask themselves:
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.)
What can parents do?
If we govern 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 you and your 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 teenaged boy he couldn't see Batman. Every adolescent male in the country wanted to see that picture. I'll bet the children who were instructed not to attend such a film – did. The realization is, you can't protect them 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 movies is for your kids to say "yes" to Bible study.
One last thing, teens.
I'm not preaching at you. I just feel the media bombards you with their agenda. So, think on this: if a society is to survive, it needs standards. Can you point out better standards than those found in the Scriptures?
Come back tomorrow for Part Two of Teens and the Movies. I'll offer up some DVD suggestions featuring and about teenagers.
Phil Boatwright is the author of MOVIES: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE REALLY, REALLY BAD.