Lost standards: MovieGuide urges families to filter wisely
A video game released last month leads players on a “sadistic” murderous rampage, says Ted Baehr, founder and publisher of MovieGuide.org, who says the current “M” (mature) rating for “Manhunt 2” needs to be raised to “AO” (adults only).
“Manhunt 2” is a so-called “firstperson shooter” but with an important difference, Mr. Baehr said.
“Unlike other first-person shooters where you are protecting yourself, in Manhunt 2, you are seeking innocent victims,” said Mr. Baehr, chairman of the California-based Christian Film & Television Commission (CFTC). He has called on Sony Entertainment and Nintendo to revoke the license for the video game to be sold in the United States.
The person playing the video game, rated for audiences ages 17 and older, simulates the violent acts of a mental institution escapee who stabs, slices and chops his victims.
“It teaches susceptible children to commit sadistic violence,” Mr. Baehr said.
Targets of Mr. Baehr’s past successful campaigns against unsavory entertainment have included the movie “Hounddog,” which depicted graphic and violent molestation scenes, and was never was released.
The CFTC’s mission is to uphold Christian and family values and to promote family-friendly entertainment that is free of violence, sex, nudity and foul language. The commission is the lobbying arm of Good News Communications (GNC), Inc., a nonprofit ministry dedicated to redeeming the values of the entertainment industry and publisher of MovieGuide.
“We want to see more of the entertainment industry become morally responsible and clean up the media in an active and commendable way,” Mr. Baehr said.
GNC works on two levels to influence Hollywood and the audiences the entertainment industry aims to reach, he said. The ministry encourages media executives to adopt higher standards and informs the public how to become media-wise consumers.
“We’re encouraging the entertainment industry to get back to having standards,” Mr. Baehr said.
At one time, the entertainment industry cooperated with churches to release family-friendly films, Mr. Baehr pointed out in “The CultureWise Family, Upholding Christian Values in a Mass Media World,” a 2007 book he co-authored.
From 1933 until 1966, the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Protestant Film Office evaluated movies in terms of the Motion Picture Code for explicit sex, violence, profanity and blasphemy, Mr. Baehr said in his book. But in 1966, the churches voluntarily withdrew from the entertainment industry and their code was replaced by the Motion Picture Association of America’s MPAA rating system, he said.
“The conservatives are always giving up when things are going well. You can’t do that,” Mr. Baehr said.
The churches’ abandonment of Hollywood resulted in a moral decline in the entertainment produced, Mr. Baehr said.
“What Ted stands for is very important for the industry,” said Al Mayer, Jr., vice president of technical marketing for Panavision in Woodland Hills, Calif. “You have to prove to Hollywood that a lot of money is made from family-oriented films.”
Mr. Baehr founded the Christian Film & Television Commission in 1985. The commission researches films and compiles data on the profit makers, presenting the results in a report to the entertainment industry at the Annual Movieguide Faith & Values Awards Gala, dubbed “The Christian Oscars.”
In each report, Mr. Baehr presents facts and statistics demonstrating that strong Christian movies earn more at the box office than nonChristian movies, as do movies with strong moral worldviews. MovieGuide, published monthly, rates movies according to Christian, biblical and moral standards and charts each movie’s acceptability ratings.
In 2006, movies with strong moral content had an average box office of $45.6 million, compared to $17.2 million for movies with strong negative content, according to the report, based on the 300 top movies released theatrically in 2006 by the major studios in Hollywood.
The top 10 films in the 2006 domestic box office — “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” “Cars,” “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “The Da Vinci Code,” “Superman Returns,” “Ice Age: The Meltdown,” “Happy Feet,” “Over the Hedge,” “Casino Royale,” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” — had at least some moral, biblical or Christian content and did not have an R, or restricted, rating, the report said.
Walt Disney Studios producer Jonathan Flora, the father of two, said that Mr. Baehr’s MovieGuide “is critical, because we need to know what we’re seeing and how incredi- bly influenced our culture is by the media.”
In 1985, when the Christian Film & Television Commission started, Hollywood produced six family films and one movie with positive Christ- ian content, Mr. Baehr said. Last year, 40 percent of the movies demonstrated family values and 50 percent had positive Christian references, he said.
Mr. Baehr, in cooperation with Pat Boone, musician and actor, wrote “The Culture-Wise Family” to show readers how to become media-wise and to filter through the toxic messages coming from the entertainment industry.
In his part of the book, Mr. Baehr demonstrates step by step how parents can teach their children to develop discernment of the entertainment industry. He explains the five pillars of media literacy: understanding the influence the media has on children, ascertaining children’s susceptibility at each stage of cognitive development, teaching children how the media communicates its messages, helping children know the fundamentals of Christian faith, and helping children learn how to ask the right questions about the media they encounter.
Mr. Baehr shows readers how to identify the elements that construct the messages of the media and how to review and critique what they see and hear.
“By contributing to cognitive impairment, mass media of entertainment has a deleterious effect on a child’s moral, social, emotional and religious development,” Mr. Baehr said in the book.