The Slippery Slope


Recently, a friend asked me my opinion on movie ratings and whether or not they’ve been permitted to “slide” over the years.

The answer is yes, but the main problem goes much deeper than that.

When movies first became possible, there was no censorship which naturally led to pornographic material. In order to “preserve American morality,” a censorship board was formed in Hollywood that included pastors. To gain a national release, a movie had to pass this censorship board. This was a positive thing for many movies and a determent to a few (one famous case is the altered ending to Hitchcock’s Rebecca, since it was against censorship policy to let a murder go free).

Eventually, the censorship board was done away with and movie ratings came in—at first, with only G, PG, and R. When Indiana Jones came along, it was too violent for a PG and not violent enough to earn an R, so PG13 was invented. And from that moment on, entertainment has exploded with immorality, graphic violence, pervasive sexual content, foul language, and everything else that desensitizes and dehumanizes us, under the banner of movie ratings.

Do I think movies are allowed to get away with more in their ratings now than in the past? In some cases yes – and in others, no. The Indiana Jones franchise has skin melting off faces, a priest tearing the throbbing heart out of people’s chests, and a man being shoved into a plane propeller blade, with grisly results. In many ways, that’s far less violent than the shocking kid-on-kid-murder seen in The Hunger Games.

Movies have always skated by with lesser ratings than many of them deserve; in the late eighties and early nineties, Disney had a “no-PG13 movie” policy, which meant their very violent Huckleberry Finn and the violent and frightening Tom ‘n’ Huck got a PG rating. In the more recent Harry Potter franchise, it’s strange that the first two films are only PG (one depicts Voldemort’s face growing out of the back of a man’s head, and the other includes frightening elements of possession and disembodied voices threatening to tear students to shreds).

And yet, as I contemplate this, my mind turns to what I think is much more serious: the change in television over the last decade. Indiana Jones’ tearing out of the heart earned it a PG13 rating in theaters, but you can see that on The Vampire Diaries on almost a weekly basis. Supernatural gets a grisly kick out of seeing how many gross ways people can die (impaled on a fork? head sliced off with a garage door falling?). Bones offers up a delicious assortment of decomposing, blood-soaked crime scenes, with bodies liquefying in bathtubs. On Hannibal, the viewer can see mushrooms growing out of half-decomposed corpses (or in one case, a survivor), the infamous Dr. Lector chopping up human lungs and frying them in a pan, or naked corpses with their ribcage exposed, with the skin of their back held up with wires to form “angel wings.” (None of these shows are on cable networks, either!)

It’s common on just about every show to have routine bed hopping, some of it quite explicit for prime-time programming. The good old days of a passionate kiss and closing door are gone; now we follow them into the bedroom for a five minute tumble.

Tragically, where it was once more common to have a couple married in a movie or on television, now it’s more common to have them cohabitating together. Entertainment’s constant pull in that direction has changed the face of our society; what was once taboo and thought of as inappropriate is now wholly accepted and embraced. The increase of homosexual characters on television (including Glee and gay sitcoms) is even cited as being the reason more Americans are leaning pro-gay marriage.

So, how did this happen?

We let them take God out of Hollywood. We stopped objecting to behavior that goes against our moral beliefs. We started to tolerate things on our television screens that we’d never let our friends do in our living rooms. Rather than being a positive force in our society, we let television guide its behavior.

The solution isn’t to crack down on television; it’s to remember that we, as Christians, must be the salt of the earth. Hollywood can take God out of its stuff, but it can’t take it out of us. Others won’t find it anywhere except in our lives, our behavior, how we treat one another, the lives we lead, and the choices we make. Don’t let movies or television define our society – fight to protect it by example.

33 thoughts on “The Slippery Slope

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  1. I’m very curious, as a fellow INTJ… you seem to come off as anti- gay marriage in some posts, and if that’s really the case, I’d like to hear your arguments against it. It’s not a case I’ve heard rationally argued, so I’d love to hear a better argument than “the Bible/priest/Church said so.”

    1. 1. If anyone can marry anyone, why not legitimize plural marriage? Or an adult marrying a “consenting” teenager?

      2. Will churches be forced to perform these ceremonies, regardless of their church’s stance on homosexuality? Isn’t that in violation of their freedom of religion?

  2. Awesome post, Charity! I agree with you wholeheartedly…and have been saying that for years myself…we have come to tolerate things that a generation ago would never been tolerated.

    That’s part of the reason I turned to classic movies and why they are about the only thing I watch. I know I won’t have to endure nudity and graphic sex, and I know adultery and divorce won’t be condoned. Interestingly, when I reveal to people that I avoid 70’s (and later) fare and am very cautious with 60’s stuff because I the films too often include a nude scene, I am made to feel rather like a prude. I don’t consider myself a prude…I just have standards, and, sadly, I am mocked for those standards.

    1. Exactly. Stuff that would have given my grandparents a heart attack, we now see on primetime television! Words no one ever spoke in the 1930’s (at least, no one with class) are thrown around 150 times in most R-rated movies. It’s really very sad.

      SOME modern movies are good (fortunately, many period drama book adaptations are although I’ve also noticed them being “sexed up” recently) but many… aren’t. I don’t remember the last time a PG romantic comedy came out! They’re all PG13 now.

      Stuff from the 70’s is very iffy, and I’m surprised how much Hitchcock got away with in the 60’s!

      I’m sorry you get made to feel like a prude. I know the feeling — but I also tell myself that people only object to YOUR moral standards when they feel insecure about their own. If some part of them didn’t wonder, “Am I too lax in what I watch? Am I wrong in letting my kids watch this stuff?” they wouldn’t care about your standards, much less feel the need to demean and mock them.

  3. I hate the gore on “Bones.” I was good with it for awhile, but then it really started to get to me, along with the sexual ickness, and I had to give it up. Violence-wise “Castle” is the mellowist thing on tv.

    A friend and I had a conversation almost about this very thing today, only it circulated around Michael Buble. He would be considered a “moral” person in his relationships because he was faithful to one girl at a time. But he wasn’t married to them so he had an illicit relationship with them, there’s no other way around it. Yet, by today’s standards, his faithfulness to one girl at a time would be highly praised.

    It’s funny, though, because since his marriage to Lu, he’s discovered how that redefined their relationship. Whereas before she was just a girlfriend, now she’s family and he has all of the protective instincts as a husband. They were intimate before marriage, but that didn’t give him those instincts. Marriage and fidelity gave him those instincts. Interesting, eh?

    This long rambling really means that society doesn’t get it where marriage is concerned. Being faithful to only one girl at a time isn’t moral. Committing to them for life in a marriage ceremony and waiting on intimacy until after the marriage is.

    1. The gore was gross — the casual attitude toward sex was worse, which is why I quit watching it after a couple of seasons. It seemed like we couldn’t have a single episode without some awkward discussion about sex.

      It’s nice when a man is faithful to a woman. It’s nicer when he treasures her enough to protect her virtue until a wedding ring makes him responsible for providing for and looking after her. 🙂

  4. WOW! Excellent post, Charity. Glad you shared thoughts on this.

    It has been sad to experience a decline in both Hollywood movies and primetime television. The biggest offender on ‘Bones’ is usually the innuendoes although some of those decaying bodies are gross, for sure. I am thankful it doesn’t tend to be a violent show in other regards though (like ‘Hannibal’). Probably the most violent show I’ve watched would be ’24’ (I don’t think ‘Alias’ is even as bad!) although ‘Justified’ tends more “graphic” in a modern western kind of way. Then on the other spectrum, it seems we cannot get through an entire run of a show without dealing in some way with homosexuality – whether it’s minor or major.

    When we stop questioning it, that’s when we need to worry.

    1. I don’t watch much television now (maybe three shows altogether on a consistent basis?) but I’ve seen how much content has changed in the last thirteen or so years. If you DON’T watch it for awhile and then do, it’s astounding how obvious it is. There’s a LOT more of everything. In its day, Law & Order had a body, maybe a little blot of blood, and occasionally some tough street talk. Now we get disemboweled corpses and blood spatter. (In Hannibal‘s case, we get to see the blood actually spatter out of the person in flashbacks… something that for a movie would earn an automatic R-rating.)

      Cable television is even worse (in that regard, The Closer/Major Crimes is really very tame in comparison to a lot of cable programming, for which I’m grateful) and the latest trend in it is incest, since they’ve already played every other sexual perversion out. Ugh… just… ugh.

          1. See, THAT’S what freaks me out. People going for that type of thing on shows! As soon as that stops to titillate they’ll move on to something else. What’s next, pedophilia? ARGH!

          2. Where do filmmakers stop in the quest to top themselves? What could possibly be so shocking that there cannot be anything left to top it?

          3. But… but… both actors are hot! Why shouldn’t people ship it, even if they do play a brother and sister?

            Ugh, it’s revolting.

          4. How is that even okay? I mean, people wouldn’t do that with people they know! I know it’s not “real,” but it’s still nasty. And like Carissa said, what’s next? Where are people going to stop with this?

          5. I think there’s a disconnect between reality and fantasy for some people — and that’s how they justify it; the two aren’t REALLY related, and that makes it “okay.” But it IS a disturbing trend (along with the increasing popularity of slash… romantically shipping two heterosexual characters as a gay couple). And yes, pedophilia is probably next. =P

          6. I accidentally stumbled upon some slash. I was looking at pictures people had drawn of the original cast of Star Trek, and everything was fun, but then there were pictures of Kirk and Spock cuddling or kissing. It was disturbing.

  5. I really liked where you went with this. You’re right; though movies have so much more filth in them (and shows, as well), it’s our responsibility to be responsible viewers. It wasn’t until I had kids, actually, that I began paying more attention to what was in shows and movies, and saw how diligent I need to be regarding what I watch.

    1. My mother would agree with you here, Carol. She was religious in pre-screening everything unless it was a Veggie Tale movie or an animated Disney flick, pretty much everything was questioned. When she’d ask my aunt (whose children were all grown up) if a film was appropriate for us to watch, my aunt would often say yes because she didn’t have to think about that – she didn’t watch a movie with the mind-set of “is this age-appropriate?”

      Great comment!

      1. It amazes me even how much sneaks into kids’ movies. When I was a kid, you could assume G was fine, but even now I see things I don’t want my girls exposed to. Then again, so much is this way now. I’m a lot more careful with books then my mom was with me; I read some real doozies in my young teens that have stayed with me and I wish I’d never read. But at least I know to be careful and what to look out for!

        1. I don’t remember my parents screening movies for us, but it was an unspoken rule for a long time in our house that no movies over PG were allowed. Mom explained to me a few times that I couldn’t watch something because there were unmarried people living together in it. Some might say that’s being over-protective, but it never did me any harm! And although I might not have such rigorous standards now for myself, I still NOTICE stuff like that and I’m still ANNOYED with it. (For example — Grimm. What’s wrong with having Grimm and Juliet married instead of just living together? It’s a blot against an otherwise decent show… or at least, the dozen episodes I saw of it.)

          1. YES. There are so many things that don’t need to be in shows or movies and yet they are.

        2. For sure, Carol! I think as a young teen, I’d get so excited at the prospect of watching the latest rom-com (I am a bit of a romantic!) but usually, my mom would say, “nope, you can’t watch that one.” Looking back, I don’t regret how she chose to screen what I saw AT ALL. I think it was an excellent decision on my parent’s part – today kids are losing their innocence all too easily and it’s disturbing. The movies are a part of that and parent’s don’t even realize what their children are watching. And, as you say, even a G-rated movie cannot always be trusted – the script thinks it good practice to throw in humor for the adults.

          Some may call this overprotective as Charity said. I think it’s smart.

          1. A parent’s job is to protect the children. That doesn’t just mean physically. I think it’s better to be a little too careful, then look back and have to say, “I wish I hadn’t let ___ into my kid’s life.”

      2. People should even be careful with some of those Disney movies. “The Black Cauldron” is an iffy one. I want to make absolutely sure of what my kids are watching, if the Lord ever blesses me with a hubby and kids. I didn’t see my first PG13 movie until I was over 13, and I intend to hold the same rule with my kids. They don’t need to see “Iron Man” or “The Lord of the Rings” until they’re old enough to understand what’s going on.

        1. My parents had a Disney ban for a long time since all the animated movies had magic in them, and they wanted their kids old enough to understand that magic was make-believe, so I didn’t see most of the Disney movies until I was a bit older (… ten? eleven?).

          I think thirteen is a reasonable age for most PG13 movies… maybe older than that for some of them.

        2. Definitely! My girls haven’t seen the original Fantasia (neither have I, or at least not all of it) because of the devil that’s in it. And it’s not just the physical things you have to watch out for, but the message the movie/show teaches.

    2. Sometimes, I think the best thing someone can do is try movie reviewing with families in mind — it really, really makes you aware of things you wouldn’t notice as a casual viewer. Most people don’t remember how bad a movie is unless they need to remember. 15+ years of reviewing has made it impossible for me NOT to notice things… to internally count profanities… to catch innuendo… to notice when a shirt is too low.

      I remember watching HP2 as an adult and thinking, “Holy crap, this would SCARE children!” Sure enough, when my niece and nephew watched it with me at home with their mother’s consent, both of them buried their faces in my arms when Harry faced the basilisk.

      Once, my aunt told me how good a movie was — I said, “Really? It had over 67 f-words in it!” (I’d looked it up out of interest in it, before she saw it.) She didn’t believe me!

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