Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Pick a Decent Movie?
A VETERAN film star of yesteryear was quoted as saying: “People . . . ask me why I never go to movies now. There are so many degrading movies.” She chose to eliminate moviegoing entirely as a source of entertainment.
A teenage girl named Denise is of a similar mind, but she suggests a somewhat less drastic solution. “There is usually not much to watch,” she explains, “because it’s mostly violence. So I’m very particular about what I watch.”
No doubt you too enjoy a movie from time to time. It is therefore understandable if you are not disposed to write off movie-viewing entirely as a form of recreation. But as shown in our previous issue—and a look at the entertainment pages of any newspaper will confirm this—there are precious few films being produced today that are fit for a young Christian to watch.* This is not a matter to be taken lightly, for the movies you see are a reflection of what values you treasure. They tell much about the kind of association you delight in, the type of language you tolerate, the sexual morals you espouse.
The Bible urges us to “hate what is bad.” (Psalm 97:10) Can you really do so if you regularly seek out doses of satanic gore, mayhem, and violence, or graphic displays of sexual immorality? Hardly. The youth who truly treasures godly principles seeks to follow the Bible’s counsel at Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.” This does not necessarily mean that you must stay away from all movies, but it means that you must be very selective about what you watch. How can you do this?
Ratings—An Infallible Guide?
In the United States, movies are rated according to standards set by the Motion Picture Association of America. A letter symbol designates whether the film is deemed appropriate for viewing by the general public, whether parental guidance is suggested, or whether it should be restricted to viewing by adults. How a movie deals with sex and violence, alcohol and drug abuse, obscene language, and the like, is usually the basis for determining its rating.
While such rating systems are admittedly flawed, and often inconsistent, they do give a prospective viewer at least some idea of the contents of a film and whether or not it is appropriate for viewing. If a similar system exists in your land, you will no doubt find it useful. Your parents may likewise use the ratings in setting guidelines regarding which films you may view.
Ratings can be misleading, however. Remember: Those determining the ratings may not subscribe to Bible-based values. And with the world’s deteriorating moral values, many films that would have been considered shocking just a few years ago are now thought of as acceptable for general audiences.
Young DeMarlo found this out when he attended a film he thought had an acceptable rating. It turned out to be filled with “cursing and violence.” So while published ratings may be helpful, they should not be the sole basis for deciding what to watch. The Bible cautions: “Anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word, but the shrewd one considers his steps.”—Proverbs 14:15.
Checking Out a Film
What are some other guidelines you can use? Movie reviews and advertisements can also give you some idea of the contents of a movie. But again, caution is needed. A movie review merely reflects another person’s opinion. And an advertisement may deliberately conceal the fact that a movie has offensive scenes.
A teenager named Connie says: “I’ve found that knowing who the principal actors are in the movie often gives you some idea of what the movie is likely to portray.” Christian peers who share your Bible-based values may know if a certain film is acceptable. And a theater manager or a person at the ticket booth may likewise give candid information. Generally, though, people tend to tell you what they really enjoyed about a movie. Why not ask what is bad about it? Be specific. Inquire as to whether there are scenes of gory violence, explicit sex, or demonic possession.
Your parents may also be a good source of advice. Says young Vanessa: “I consult my parents. If they think it’s all right for me to watch, I’ll go see it.”
The same would apply to renting videotapes. In addition, scrutinize the box or cover carefully. Is there anything about the illustrations and words that would suggest that the film is unacceptable? Then put it back! It may also help to talk to a store clerk who has already seen the film. Proverbs 14:16 says: “A wise man is cautious and turns his back on evil; the stupid is heedless and falls headlong.”—The New English Bible.
Walking Out, Turning It Off
What if you have already rented a videotape, however, and find that its contents are objectionable? The solution is simple: Turn it off! This may not be easy. You may find yourself emotionally involved with the plot or characters. You may be very curious as to how the film ends. But turning your back on evil is clearly the smart thing to do.—Compare Matthew 5:29, 30.
The situation can be a bit touchier if you are in a theater with friends and a movie turns sour. A teenager named Joseph faced this very situation. Ads for a recent film billed it as a “must-see.” However, Joseph recalls: “Within the first five minutes there were three scenes of violence and nudity.” Joseph politely informed his friends of his intentions and walked out. Did he find this embarrassing? Says Joseph: “No, not at all. I thought of Jehovah first and of pleasing him.”
Admittedly, peer pressure against taking such a stand can be great. Pressure may even come from youths who have been raised by Christian parents, but such youths have had their consciences seared by watching too many questionable films. (1 Timothy 4:2) They may accuse you of being unbalanced or too righteous. But rather than give in to peer pressure, “hold a good conscience.” (1 Peter 3:16) What really counts is not what your peers think of you but what Jehovah thinks of you! And if your friends hassle you for following your conscience, it’s time to find some new friends. (Proverbs 13:20) You are the ultimate guardian of your eyes, ears, and figurative heart.—Compare Job 12:11; 31:1; Proverbs 4:23.
Keeping a Good Conscience
Young Georgia was in the habit of sneaking into movies that were supposedly restricted from her age-group. As time passed, however, she began to desire a good relationship with God. She stopped seeing questionable movies and found other fun things to do with her Christian friends. Says Georgia: “I no longer have something weighing on my conscience. And now I can really sleep because I’ve got a real clean feeling inside.”
Do you want to be clean in the eyes of the Examiner of hearts, Jehovah God? (Proverbs 17:3) Then be careful of what you take into your heart. Avoid unnecessarily exposing yourself to uncalled-for violence, to sexual exploitation, or to filthy language; these can only dull your sense of what is right and corrupt your heart. Be like the psalmist who prayed: “Make my eyes pass on from seeing what is worthless.”—Psalm 119:37.
By being careful and selective, not only can you protect yourself from harmful influences but you can enjoy that “clean feeling” young Georgia talked about. And no Hollywood special effects can match that feeling!
See the article “Does It Matter Which Movies I See?” appearing in the July 22, 1990, issue of Awake!
[Blurb on page 11]
Many films that were shocking a few years ago are now considered acceptable
[Picture on page 10]
Your parents may know if an advertised movie is objectionable