Clean the Screens!
Hollywood Needs to Revisit the Code of Decency
By Ted Baehr and Tom Snyder
EDITOR’S NOTE: Movieguide® is an international guide to entertainment media, based in Los Angeles. Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher, directed the TV Center at the City University of New York and Tom Snyder, Editor, has a Ph.D. in film studies from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.
Teenagers’ entertainment budget marks them as the No. 1 target for both movies and television programs. Yet according to Movieguide’s extensive documented research, Hollywood’s attempts to reach their most valued customers are misguided. As a non-profit Christian group, Movieguide holds tenaciously to the Motion Picture Code of Decency, which once ruled every movie script produced by Hollywood. These standards are based on biblical precepts and provided moral guidance to entertainment executives.
Young people do not appreciate degenerative movies. The Los Angeles Times confirmed this fact recently when it found that 74% of American girls age 12 to 24 and 58% of American boys are offended by obscenity, profanity and sexual content in the media. Also, a survey of youths by the Associated Press and MTV showed that 73% said their relationship with their parents makes them happy. This appreciation for family and moral values came as no surprise for Movieguide after 15 years of publishing a comprehensive financial Report to the Entertainment Industry which reveals moviegoers’ preferences through ticket purchases. Films with Movieguide’s highest ratings constantly outdo low-rated films at the box office, and family-friendly TV shows, such as “American Idol,” enjoy tremendous popularity. Why are these sure indications ignored? Setting aside a moral Code has caused the industry to lose its compass.
Ticket sales show that Americans want to see truth and justice prevail, and to celebrate victory over depravity, brutality, and hopelessness. Meanwhile, the moral degradation depicted in much of what Hollywood produces has a polluting affect on our culture. Movieguide has developed a wise strategy to combat unhealthy media influence by reinstating the Code of Decency. Media quality is best controlled at the source, so, as in all other professions, entertainment executives need to be accountable and responsible for the production of media that uphold ethical standards.
As vividly depicted in a video entitled HOLLYWOOD UNCENSORED, Americans struggled with immorality in movies up to the 1930s. Then, three Christians drafted the Motion Picture Code of Decency based on the Ten Commandments and solicited 8 million signatures to pledge support of that Code. As a result, the movie industry accepted the Code and all movie productions adhered to its tenets.
Basically, the Code provided that: The dignity and value of human life shall be respected; Evil, crime and sin, including illicit sex, shall not be justified; Restraint must be used to avoid the presentation of obscenity, undue profanity, undue exposure of the body, and detailed violence or abuse; Intimate scenes shall not violate common decency; Care shall be exercised in the presentation of sexual aberrations; Content shall not demean or incite contempt toward any religious faith, race, or national group; and Animals shall be treated humanely.
Up to the 1960s, when communities were less transient and religious affiliations less fragmented, the enforcement of the Code found support through advocacy groups in Hollywood, local theaters, and the family. However, when the major religious affiliations withdrew their support, the entertainment industry became rife with vulgarity, gore, nudity and explicit perversions, even pedophilia. Now, Movieguide reviews productions for moral content, and even hosts an annual “Faith and Values Awards” Gala, similar to the Academy Awards, to recognize media that has a positive impact on our culture.
Meanwhile, the entertainment industry has adopted the ratings of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Disregarding morality, the MPAA rates films based on its estimations of what is age appropriate. For example, exposure to sexuality depends on whether a person is past puberty, with more explicit sex considered appropriate after reaching adulthood. There is no accounting for story context or sensual imagery that may be offensive. The MPAA rates productions “R” in a way that implies a right of passage to adulthood for the naive, while genuinely mature audiences prefer quality productions rated PG and G. In that manner, MPAA facilitates sales to those who are less influenced by discernment than by peers and mass marketing. Since less than 15 Million ticket sales make a blockbuster, an informed public must raise a standard of ethics, or industry executives will enjoy the easy money that goes with social corruption.
The authors of the Code confirmed that entertainment either uplifts or degrades standards of living. Further, they declared that the motion picture, because of its prevalence, has special moral obligations. The spectacular combination of images with story telling at once reaches multitudes in areas that were untouched by other forms of art, with the apparent reality of life.
Since entertainment executives respond to the realities of profit and loss, many studios are making more family-oriented films and television programs. Also, several producers in Hollywood have thanked Movieguide for clarifying the values that concern their largest audience. Yet lacking a Code, productions continue to be released from Hollywood studios that contribute to the degradation of our society.
Moving forward, Movieguide already has 1 Million signatures pledging to support restoration of the Motion Picture Code of Decency to influence film making from inception. The goal is to present over 8 Million pledges, since, as recent elections prove; numbers count. Although enforcement of the Code must be voluntary, Movieguide is positioned to restore a sense of responsibility to produce movies that will benefit both audience and industry. Industry executives in Hollywood are paying attention, so now it’s time the audience let their choice be known.
Movieguide provides movie reviews on line at www.Movieguide.org. Annual Subscribers ($40) receive a bi-weekly publication and have access to archived movie reviews through a link on their website. Additionally, Dr. Baehr’s new book, THE CULTURE-WISE FAMILY, provides an overview of cultural influences and how to enjoy the best of entertainment by exercising discernment. A pledge form may be completed on-line or by mailing the attached form.
Americans for Moral Entertainment
I unite with MOVIEGUIDE(r) and Americans for Moral Entertainment, to support only those motion pictures that strengthen and uplift Biblical standards of living.
I hold those who produce, promote and distribute entertainment media accountable for messages regarding what is good, true, and beautiful through the depiction of characters, their achievements, and what behavior is depicted as socially acceptable.
I rebuke unwholesome media as a contributing factor in the degeneration of our culture and a menace to family, community and the impression given of American society worldwide.
I stand against the exploitation of the senses and disregard for moral standards.
I hereby pledge to discern and patronize only movies that adhere to The Motion Picture Code of Decency and state with conviction that the self-respecting American public appreciates clean entertainment.
Print name here:______________________________________
Movieguide, A.M.E. Pledge,
1151 Avenida Acaso
Camarillo, CA 93012
THE MOTION PICTURE & TELEVISION PRODUCTION CODE:
- The basic dignity and value of human life shall be respected and upheld. Restraint shall be exercised in portraying the taking of life.
- Evil, sin, crime and wrong-doing shall not be justified.
- Detailed and protracted acts of brutality, cruelty, physical violence, torture, and abuse, shall not be presented.
- Indecent or undue exposure of the human body shall not be presented.
- Illicit sex relationships shall not be justified. Intimate sex scenes violating common standards of decency shall not be portrayed. Restraint and care shall be exercised in presentations dealing with sex aberrations.
- Obscene speech, gestures or movements shall not be presented. Undue profanity shall not be presented.
- Religion shall not be demeaned.
- Words or symbols contemptuous of racial, religious or national groups, shall not be used so as to incite bigotry or hatred.
- Excessive cruelty to animals shall not be portrayed and animals shall not be treated inhumanely.