Thursday, July 06, 2006

Aww, Christ.

Posted by codemorse

From the Star Tribune:



A Christian-themed movie about a football coach's faith in God is finding an audience in Congress — not so much for its inspirational message, but for the PG rating it received.

House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and other lawmakers are demanding explanations after hearing complaints that the movie "Facing the Giants'' was rated PG instead of G due to religious content.

"This incident raises the disquieting possibility that the MPAA considers exposure to Christian themes more dangerous for children than exposure to gratuitous sex and violence,'' Blunt said in a letter to MPAA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan Glickman.

After meeting with MPAA officials, Blunt and a handful of other House members said they remain concerned about the subjective native of the ratings process.

"I'm not satisfied," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who attended the meeting with Blunt. "We probably will want to revisit this ratings process to have some commonality in the standards that exist for movies, videos and video games."

Blackburn said she wants the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold hearings on the issue later this year. (emphasis added - ed.)

An MPAA spokesman did not return calls seeking comment. But in a letter to Blunt earlier this month, the MPAA's Glickman insisted the rating for "Facing the Giants'' was not based on religious content.

"Any strong or mature discussion of any subject matter results in at least a PG rating,'' Glickman said. "This movie had a mature discussion about pregnancy, for example. It also had other mature discussions that some parents might want to be aware of before taking their kids to see this movie.''

I've helpfully italicized a portion of the above because I think it deserves the special mention. Yes, Representative Blackburn wants to involve the House Energy and Commerce Committee in an exploration of movie ratings.

What a marvelously conservative use of taxpayer monies. Perhaps next we could fund a congressional investigation into the American Idol results. It's outrageous that the voting goes on under such shadowy circumstances!

To paraphrase Blunt, this whole thing raises the disquieting possibility that Blunt and other members of our government are not only falling over themselves to spend our money on ri-donk-ulous shit, they also have absolutely no understanding of the ratings system.

For the MPAA to consider Christianity "more dangerous for children than exposure to sex and violence," the MPAA would have to have slapped this film with an R or NC-17. The PG rating clearly identifies films that lack significent sex and adult violence.

It does, however, denote the presence of more mature themes than a "G" rated film. Themes that parents may wish to consider before bringing their small children to a film. As Roger Ebert eloquently and succinctly puts it:


The PG rating does not permit sex, violence and profanity, so the MPAA is not equating that content with Christianity. The mild PG rating informs parents of young children that some of the material may be intended for more mature audiences. Assume for the sake of argument that the movie featured the coach telling the child, "Following Allah is the decision that you're going to have to make for yourself. You may not want to accept it, because it will change your life. You will never be the same." Would that be all right with you, or would that be an element you would want to be informed about? There is no official religion in this country. Not all parents are Christians, and the MPAA ratings should serve all parents.

Here's a synopsis of the film, provided by someone who thinks the MPAA definately rated t he movie PG for it's religious elements:

"Facing the Giants" is the story of a Christian high school football coach who uses his undying faith to battle the giants of fear and failure. Due to the Christian content, the MPAA rated it PG, placing it in the same offensive category as sex, violence and profanity. The plot includes several prayers being answered, a medical miracle, and a mystic who delivers a message from God. The scene the MPAA found most offensive was a discussion between the football coach and a boy named Matt. The coach says the boy needs to stop bad-mouthing his father and get right with God.The boy replies: "You really believe in all that honoring God and following Jesus stuff? Well, I ain't trying to be disrespectful, but not everybody believes in that."The coach responds: "Matt, nobody's forcing anything on you. Following Jesus Christ is the decision that you're going to have to make for yourself. You may not want to accept it, because it will change your life. You will never be the same."

On a side-note, it sounds pretty fun to be in government doesn't it? Sitting around all day, complaining old-manishly about video games, and movies, and youth, and how no one respects the flag or Jesus Christ. You get to drive your car into a barrier in the middle of the night, whacked out on "prescription meds" without the police so much as giving you a ticket. You get to slap security guards. You get to pour our tax money down an enormous, gaping sphincter-hole of ludicrious special projects and hearings.

Perhaps you'd like to let Blunt, Blackburn, and the rest of our thumb-twiddling representative government know what you think of them spending the taxpayers' monies over a percieved religious slight?

Here's Roy Blunt's contact number: (417) 889 - 1800

Here's Marsha Blackburn's: (901) 382 - 5811

Remember to be polite, and to use your indoor voice.

6 Comments:

At 8:38 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

I'd have to know what qualifies this discussion of Christianity as "mature". Of course based on what the MPAA says it has nothing to do with religion, but I'm not sure that I buy that.

Regarding the House Committee I guess this could fall under the consumer protection auspice of that body. It's certainly the most appropriate House Committee I can think of.

 
At 9:34 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

That is, if you think this is appropriate at all.

I'd say a frank discussion of pregnancy automatically qualifies the film for PG status, regardless of religious content.

But over and above that, Ebert's point remains the distillation of mine. Ratings for films exist in no small part to help parents choose appropriate fare for their children. Christianity is not our national religion. As such, parents of different faiths may want to be aware of what amounts to urging conversion.

But my real point is that our government has no business deciding to get involved here. Their reasoning for doing so seems baldly obvious, considering the quoted desire to bring video games, films and music all under a similar standard of ratings. They're going to suggest the creation of a federal ratings board.

Is that how you want your figurative money spent?

 
At 10:30 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Never mind that our current ratings system is practically useless in that regard. It's too narrow at best and as this shows entirely too subjective. I like the TV ratings system (a letter for each thing included in the rating decision). Government involvement in a rating system isn't a horrible idea in my mind so long as they don't have the ability to outright ban a film. Almost anything would be better than the MPAA which is a joke. And if dollars are spent in that direction, well I could think of a dozen far worse expenditures.

I'm curious as to how frank a discussion of pregnancy would need to be in order to get a PG rating. You also seem to say that while religion wasn't the causative factor in this case it could be in others. I'd like to hear more on that. Christianity certainly isn't our national religion (though depending on the poll it's the majority one), but I fail to see why two characters discussing a religion would cause a warning to be neccesary, whether that religion was Islam, Buddhism, or Secular Humanism.

In closing I'd like to say that as a parent I have never and would never rely on any sort of rating system to make a decision regarding the appropriateness of any media for my child. I would either prescreen it, research it, or watch it with them. Any parent that does otherwise, imo, is lazy.

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

I'm curious as to how frank a discussion of pregnancy would need to be in order to get a PG rating. You also seem to say that while religion wasn't the causative factor in this case it could be in others. I'd like to hear more on that. Christianity certainly isn't our national religion (though depending on the poll it's the majority one), but I fail to see why two characters discussing a religion would cause a warning to be neccesary, whether that religion was Islam, Buddhism, or Secular Humanism.

The difference between "discussing" religion and "preaching" is the issue here. In either case, I'd argue that topics which cause severely divisive and violent behavior in adults should qualify as mature.

That applies, whether its Christianity, Communism, Racism, homosexuality, or otherwise.

I'm going to post this synopsis up on the main site to clarify my point a little:

"Facing the Giants" is the story of a Christian high school football coach who uses his undying faith to battle the giants of fear and failure. Due to the Christian content, the MPAA rated it PG, placing it in the same offensive category as sex, violence and profanity. The plot includes several prayers being answered, a medical miracle, and a mystic who delivers a message from God. The scene the MPAA found most offensive was a discussion between the football coach and a boy named Matt. The coach says the boy needs to stop bad-mouthing his father and get right with God.

The boy replies: "You really believe in all that honoring God and following Jesus stuff? Well, I ain't trying to be disrespectful, but not everybody believes in that."

The coach responds: "Matt, nobody's forcing anything on you. Following Jesus Christ is the decision that you're going to have to make for yourself. You may not want to accept it, because it will change your life. You will never be the same."


I'd consider that fairly mature stuff, in that it's clearly advocating for faith in the Christian God as a path to success (in football, no less). There's nothing wrong with that message, and if it's well told, could be very inspirational. But shouldn't strong religious themes be identified in a ratings system?

Aren't parents in every religion, including Christianity, entitled to know if their children are going to be entertainingly recruited, no matter how tastefully?

And I agree about the ratings' effectiveness. But the fact is, many parents do rely on it. Not liking that doesn't negate it. And putting this stuff in government hands? Spending our money on it? Isn't there something more...well...important to be done?

Your thoughts?

 
At 1:07 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

That difference can be in the eye of the beholder, you know. And saying that "topics which cause severely divisive and violent behavior in adults should qualify as mature" means that all sports movies should be PG, no?

In seriousness though it seems we're being told two things. I'm hearing that pregnancy talk is the reason not religion, but your example indicates that it's religion. If it's religion I'm okay with that.

When you say that advocating for faith is a "mature topic" though I just can't wrap my head around that. Are you saying that any time a character says, "You should believe in X God." that's PG? Does that mean Veggie Tales is PG now? I'll go along with a need for identification if we're talking about something really strong, like Left Behind type stuff. And usually any movie like that's gonna be PG for any number of reasons.

And certainly parents are entitled to know everything about the movies their kids see, but respectfully where do we draw the line? What if I'm offended by I dunno eating meat (silly but real life, just not in my case), should I be warned? Where does the parent's responsibility begin?

And believe me, I'd love for the government to spend less money. My intent was not to advocate for a federal ratings system. Just to point out that that would be a step up at least. I'd settle for a non-regulated one like the MPAA only better. Having said that, I don't think anyone (including Christians) should get too up in arms over ratings one way or another. It's your responsibility as a consumer to educate yourself. If you want to take someone else's opinion on the matter just be ready to be surprised when their opinion doesn't mesh with yours.

 
At 10:03 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

I thought I'd let you have the last word on this one, because I think you've laid out your opinion pretty effectively. But since you've insisted... :)

That difference can be in the eye of the beholder, you know.

Well, sure. I wouldn't argue otherwise. But I think it's pretty safe to say that the difference pretty much lies in whether you
a) are open to being preached at in the movies, especially when you aren't aware that's what you'll be getting, or
b) agree with/don't mind what's being preached.

There's nothing "offensive" about the synopsis for this film, but if I were a non-Christian, I wouldn't want to wander into it without knowing just how much of t he movie is dependent on faith in a Christian God.

And saying that "topics which cause severely divisive and violent behavior in adults should qualify as mature" means that all sports movies should be PG, no?

If it's, say, a football movie? Sure, I probably would go with a PG rating. Baseball? Maybe not.

In seriousness though it seems we're being told two things. I'm hearing that pregnancy talk is the reason not religion, but your example indicates that it's religion. If it's religion I'm okay with that.

We're being told two things because the MPAA insists that religion was not a motivating cause. It's religious folks who seem to think the MPAA is lying.

I'm okay with it either way.

When you say that advocating for faith is a "mature topic" though I just can't wrap my head around that. Are you saying that any time a character says, "You should believe in X God." that's PG? Does that mean Veggie Tales is PG now? I'll go along with a need for identification if we're talking about something really strong, like Left Behind type stuff. And usually any movie like that's gonna be PG for any number of reasons.

Veggie Tales isn't something I've seen, so I can't comment on it. I do understand that it's promoted pretty expressly as Christian entertainment, which I think is sort of my point. Parents who want to educate their children on Christianity know what they're getting with Veggie Tales. Parents who don't want to teach their kids this know to steer clear.

And certainly parents are entitled to know everything about the movies their kids see, but respectfully where do we draw the line? What if I'm offended by I dunno eating meat (silly but real life, just not in my case), should I be warned? Where does the parent's responsibility begin?

For me, the parental responsibility is the end all/be all. That's (hopefully) evident by my disgust at the government horning in on the MPAA (of whom, I should note, I am not a big fan of either).

I suppose what it comes down to is that I think the government should stay out of this area. I think parents have a legitimate interest in knowing the content of the films they take their children to see, and I think there are many parents who'd want to be informed of the content of films that contain very, very blatant arguments for there being one true faith.

 

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