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Movie Rating Hypocrisy

June 26, 2006

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has gone too far - way too far! Their rating system is supposed to help parents protect their children from nudity, foul language and violence - not from Christianity. Yet, in violation of their own published guidelines, the Association has put a "warning label" on a film that contains NO nudity, NO filthy language, and NO violence. The movie's "objectionable content" is its Christian message. In effect, the MPAA has made a decision to censor religion by its action.

The hypocrisy is that the MPAA had given "G" ratings in the past to many movies that actually contain objectionable content. They explain this away  by claiming that the objectionable material was only seen on screen "fleetingly," or was very "mild." The more serious hypocrisy is that they liberally pass out "G" ratings to movies that contain strong religious content of other religions, including Islam, Secular Humanism and Wicca (witchcraft).

The movie in question, which received a "PG" rating, is the soon-to-be-released sports film "Facing the Giants" (see LINK to the movie's website below). The scene which apparently caused the MPAA to fear that "some viewers might be offended" included a discussion between a football coach and a wealthy spoiled brat.

When the coach advised the  kid to stop bad-mouthing his father and get right with God, the boy said, "You really believe in all that honoring God and following Jesus stuff?... Well, I ain't trying to be disrespectful, but not everybody believes in that."

To which the coach replied: "Matt, nobody's forcing anything on you. Following Jesus Christ is the decision that you're going to have to make for yourself. You may not want to accept it, because it'll change your life. You'll never be the same."

Alex Kendrick, who plays the coach in the film, said, "Look, I have those kinds of conversations about faith all the time and I've seen young people make decisions that change their lives. The reason we're making movies in the first place is that we hope they inspire people to think twice about their relationships with God."

Anyone who sees this film will agree that it should be rated "G". This is a direct quote from the MPAA's own website (see LINK below), which describes which films should be rated "G" (for General audiences):

"This is a film which contains nothing in theme, language, nudity and sex, violence, etc. that would, in the view of the Rating Board, be offensive to parents whose younger children view the film. The G rating is not a certificate of approval nor does it signify a children's film. "Some snippets of language may go beyond polite conversation but they are common everyday expressions. No stronger words are present in G-rated films. The violence is at a minimum. Nudity and sex scenes are not present, nor is there any drug use content."

So the MPAA's own guidlelines allow SOME  bad language, and SOME violence. But, as I mentioned above, "Facing the Giants" contains NO nudity, NO bad language, and NO violence. It should definitely be rated "G." The only reason it has not is that the MPAA has set itself up as some kind of censor of religion. The Association has stated that, "The religious content could be 'disturbing' to some viewers." So only religious expressions of which they approve will be allowed in "G" rated movies.

"It is kind of interesting that faith has joined that list of deadly sins that the MPAA board wants to warn parents to worry about," film spokesman Kris Fuhr told the Scripps Howard News Service.

I don't know about you, but I'd sure rather have my daughter see a coach counseling a kid to do right, than to have her hear "snippets of language may go beyond polite conversation," or have her see "...violence" which "...is at a minimum." I think "G" rated movies should not include ANY violence or bad language. The content of "Facing the Giants" is actually the ideal of a "G" rated movie.

Now let's look at how the MPAA decides which movies deserve to be rated "PG (Parental Guidance suggested):

"This is a film which clearly needs to be examined by parents before they let their children attend. The label PG plainly states parents may consider some material unsuitable for their children, but leaves the parent to make the decision. Parents are warned against sending their children, unseen and without inquiry, to PG-rated movies. The theme of a PG-rated film may itself call for parental guidance. There may be some profanity in these films. There may be some violence or brief nudity. However, these elements are not considered so intense as to require that parents be strongly cautioned beyond the suggestion of parental guidance. There is no drug use content in a PG-rated film. The PG rating, suggesting parental guidance, is thus an alert for examination of a film by parents before deciding on its viewing by their children. Obviously such a line is difficult to draw. In our pluralistic society it is not easy to make judgments without incurring some disagreement. As long as parents know they must exercise parental responsibility, the rating serves as a meaningful guide and as a warning."

Fascinating! The MPAA believes that the portrayal of drug use is so bad that it is can never be allowed in "PG" movies, where "Parental Guidance" is suggested. But parents need to be "warned" about movies that have religious themes. Using that logic, a coach talking to a child about getting his life straightened out is more damaging to kids than allowing them to see drug use portrayed in a positive manner. What planet do these people come from?

On web blogs where discussion of the movie appeared, I came across several interesting comments. One said, "Does anybody appreciate the history of our country? We cry out loud that we are Americans...but what do we have to be proud of if we have to 'warn' people about the values upon which our country was founded? I respect other religions, but we, the People, come from Christian backgrounds. Our forefathers are turning in their graves!...I think that the rating should be changed to a "G." We have religious freedom here, besides a strong Christian background as a nation."

Another commented, "What this film is going for is authenticity. It wants to show what really goes on in the hearts, minds, and lives of people who make following Christ a way of life. There are such people in (nearly) every type of occupation across the globe. When looked at that way, is this film any different than a film that goes inside a mafia ring and presents a realistic (yet fictional) picture of what happens there? It will offend some people, but savvy movie-goers have done their research and know what they are getting themselves into...If this film is too religious for you, then your problem is with the people that follow this way of life, not the film itself. Can you really blame the film for striving for authenticity?"

I think that says it all.


"Facing the Giants" official website


Does 'PG' rating mean 'pro-God'?


Narrow focus draws 'PG' rating for Baptist-backed film


Motion Picture Association of America


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Copyright ©2006 Tom Barrett

Dr. Tom Barrett is a pastor, teacher, author, conference keynote speaker, professor, certified executive coach, and marketplace minister. His teaching and coaching have blessed both church and business leaders. He has been ordained for over 40 years, and has pastored in seven churches over that time. Today he “pastors pastors” as he oversees ordained and licensed ministers in Florida for his ministerial fellowship.

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