Fallen...But, Not Broken
by "Moses" of Nashville, TN
We arrive at the majestic downtown Bama Theater shortly after noon. My sister, dad, and I, in eager anticipation, rush to the ticket counter to discover the day's double feature. Would it be the slap-stick comedy of The Apple Dumpling Gang followed by a heart-wrenching classic like Where The Red Fern Grows or maybe the adventures of a Dakota mountain lioness and her cubs laying a foundation of suspense concluded in the latest Benji mystery. Regardless of the picks, we know without fail, that amidst the smells and flavors of hot buttery popcorn, crisp and sugary-sweet candy apples, and rich, creamy root beer we will be thoroughly entertained. One might possibly assume, I am sure, that this afternoon adventure is for the delight and enjoyment of my sister and me, and far less likely to be dad's ideal day out. That is not at all the case. When the lights go down and the projectors unleash their priceless gifts and I see my dad's smile spanning far and wide, his cheeks rising to mountainous proportion, forcing his ears to retreat as the dew pools in and around his eyes, then it is obvious to all: the Saturday matinee refuses to discriminate. As much as we enjoy the movies we see, even more, we love to spend two and a half uninterrupted hours together.
How things have changed. The Saturday afternoon double feature is something my children have never even heard of, much less experienced. It was common, twenty five or thirty years ago, to drive by any box office marquee and view two G rated movies and one PG. In 1999 over 70% of the total number of films released were rated R, 16% PG-13, 9% PG, and only 5% were G, as concluded by the U.S. Economic Review. The film industry has taken a radical new direction in the subject matter used for the films they produce. Violence and sexually explicit material have become the primary tools used to allure the public.
The American cinema has long defined the social norms of our culture and its peoples. It speaks to the hearts of so many of us. But, at times, it does much more than depict our society and the images associated with it. An almost unavoidable question for those who enjoy the cinema is what influence does it have upon us, and to what degree are we affected by that influence? This question is a challenge for us to consider when we accept the significant attachment we hold for the medium. It is for that very reason that while we seek to preserve the magic of story-telling through cinema, we must be aware of the objectives maintained by an industry that produces icons of such considerable proportion. The film industry appears to have little interest in the ideals of the American family and has consequently abandoned the needs of our children.
No one likes to admit that they might easily be influenced by another, especially without having realized it. In the book Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television, author Jerry Mander writes, based on his experience as an advertising executive: "I learned that it is possible to speak through media directly into people's heads and then, like some otherworldly magician, leave images inside that can cause people to do what they might otherwise never have thought to do." A report published by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary stated, "More than 1000 studies on the effects of television and movie violence have been done over the past 40 years. The majority of these studies reached the same conclusion: television and movie violence leads to real-world violence. The existing research shows beyond a doubt that media violence is linked to youth violence." "An increasing number of lawsuits are charging that violence in the media is responsible for violence in our society, particularly in crimes committed by young people." Oliver Stone's film Natural Born Killers received many allegations of inspiring youth to violence. "In 1994, a 14-year old Texas boy is accused of decapitating a 13-year old girl. Police report that the boy told them he 'wanted to be famous like the natural born killers.'" This is just one example of the many documented crimes. Obviously, movies have a significant influence on our thinking and our actions. It has been said that the media is the education of our youth. If so, it is an education in violence.
American films have become an integral part of our society. The Media Awareness Network indicates that in the last decade, box office attendance has exceeded 1.2 billion a year, and the average American watches three times as many movies on video. One example of the effect of film on our youth takes place every Halloween when the vast array of characters like Luke Skywalker, Spiderman, Harry Potter, Dracula, and the revamped Catwoman come knocking at your door. We can see how movies and the stars they produce are not only familiar and enduring, but also play an active role in forming our identity as Americans, both individual and collective.
Since the birth of the American film industry, story-telling melded with powerful imagery has been the fabric of every great motion picture. As a medium, film has long revealed themes sacred to America, ideals of: democracy, freedom, family, the ability to rise above, endurance through adversity, belief in God, and equality. However, as we reflect on the changing face of American films, it is disturbing beyond belief to learn of the industry's motives, The intentional marketing of violent films to children has become standard for the film industry. In late 2000, the Federal Trade Commission stated that "while promoting Disturbing Behavior...rated R for sexuality, drugs, and strong violence, MGM intentionally targeted underaged teens...MGM's publicist, wrote in a memo, 'In promoting "Disturbing Behavior" our goal was to find the elusive teen target audience and make sure everyone between the ages of 12-18 was exposed to the film.'" Their discoveries also included "Miramax's (Disney) marketing plan for The Mimic, R rated for terror, violence, and language, and included distributing fliers and posters to many youth groups, such as the Camp Fire Boys and Girls and Girl Scouts."
The film industry has no desire to meet the needs of our children, having discarded the ideals of the American family. Rather, it would inspire our youth to the arena of self-gratification and destruction. It has no regard for the role it plays in their lives, or the awesome dispensation of its inheritance, deserting with careless intent our most protected beliefs of freedom and family, transforming democracy into a cold and brutal indulgence. The industry has intentionally fed our children excessive violence, graphic sex, and death, all for a greater profit. In the sincere interest of the American family, our children, and for the restoration of the film industry, speak out against these crimes and spread awareness. We cannot lie down while our children are being torn from our sides and carelessly thrown into a pit of moral depravity. Let us give the youth of our country a chance.