Recently several of us who review films from a Christian perspective were the subject of a news article. The piece was written fairly and found its way into several religious and entertainment sections of papers across the land.
of us who review films from a Christian perspective were the subject of a news
article. The piece was written fairly and found its way into several religious
and entertainment sections of papers across the land.
Surprising to me,
the warning of objectionable language in my critiques became a source of
contention, not for Robert Butler, the author of the story, but by a fellow
critic who said of his organization, “We like to think we’re a little more
open-minded than to spend our time counting F-bombs and S-words.”
consider the signaling of vulgarity in upcoming films to be helpful when
movie-choosing, while evidently others think pointing out such language is
silly, or worse, pious. Normally I wouldn’t take up this space or your time
defending my approach, but unbridled word abuse in movies is now going
unchallenged by nearly every film analyst.
Since the MPAA
rating system began allowing for more invective speech back in the late 1960s,
obscenity and profanity have become entertainment colloquialisms, staples in a
limited screenwriter’s pallet for voicing fear, frustration or most other
emotions. No matter the film genre, offensive language has become conventional
movie dialogue. (This year’s Best Oscar winner, “The Departed,” contains 155
uses of the f-word, alone. That’s not noteworthy?)
reward movies for their technical and artistic qualities, while at the same
time ignoring the effect of movie content on the culture. This may be
shortsighted, for words vocalize our foibles, frailties and nobilities. They
articulate views of beauty, humor and meaning. Yet this is a time when crudity
and coarseness dominate movie dialogue. And while Hollywood reflects each era’s evolution, can
members of the movie industry deny their influence on how we dress, relate or
Though a rose is
a rose, a word is more than just a word. Words have power. Notice how
beautifully words are used to form imagery in the 23rd Psalm.
“The Lord is my
shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He
leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul:
“He leadeth me in
the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
“Yea, though I
walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou
art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table
before me in the presence of mine enemies:
my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the
house of the Lord for ever.”
line from “Ben-Hur” expresses the transformation of the newly converted main
character: “And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand.” That single
line conveys the profound life change that has occurred.
See what I’m
saying? Language matters.
The incessant use
of jarring expressions often distracts from the theme or darkens the tone of a
movie. Years ago, I reviewed “The Freshman” starring Marlon Brando. It was a
lightweight comedy with Brando spoofing his Godfather character. I didn’t like
the film chiefly because of its frequent use of the f-word and the abundant
misuse of God’s name.
Months later, I
saw “The Freshman” on TV. The objectionable words and phrases had been removed.
Without the harsh language, the movie had a lighter, humorous mood. Suddenly,
the film worked as comic satire.
If a filmmaker
has the right to infuse lewd lingo into his work, then shouldn’t filmgoers have
the right to be forewarned? If so, then perhaps movie criticism should include
reporting, rather than mere opinion.
to have little spiritual significance not just for moviemakers, but for many
moviegoers. In Exodus 20:7 it is proclaimed, “You shall not misuse the name of
the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his
name.” That commandment comes before those that pertain to coveting, adultery
or even murder.
biblical ordinances, in a huge number of films, God’s name is often followed by
a curse. If you include the misuse of Jesus’ name in that instruction, then the
number of films that defy God’s directive jumps to a majority.
Ever hear movie
characters utter in consternation, “Oh for Buddha’s sake”? So why is the name
of our Savior nothing more to moviemakers than an expletive?
Christians to think on things that are true, noble, and lovely. As such, a
follower of Christ should find words that abuse the soul to be reprehensible.
profanity shouldn’t be tolerated or merely dismissed. They don’t indicate
evolution, just deterioration.