Lost stan­dards: MovieGuide urges fam­i­lies to fil­ter wisely

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Shelley Wid­halm

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.

Jack Hornady / The Wash­ing­ton Times

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