Movies and Chastity

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I visited a different ward last Sunday while on vacation. The elders quorum lesson was on the law of chastity. The discussion quickly turned to the portrayal of chastity (or the lack of it ) in popular media, specifically movies. Three points that were brought up that I felt needed addressing were as follows:

1. The implication that morality = sexual purity
2. The virtues of CleanFlicks
3. The importance of avoiding R-rated movies

I addressed each of them as follows.

1. Morality is not synonymous with sexual purity. Likewise immorality is not synonymous with sexual impurity. Morality by definition is a system of right and wrong. Morality encompasses not only sexual purity, but also modesty, honesty, humility, charity, and an entire spectrum of virtues.

2. CleanFlicks is hypocrisy. First, someone has to watch the videos to edit them. Is it better for us to let some stranger to view objectionable material for us? Secondly, and more importantly, buying CleanFlicks videos supports Hollywood. In order for you to purchase the edited DVD, someone has to purchase an original, thus providing economic incentive for Hollywood film creators to continue producing the sort of content the buyers find objectionable.

3. The rating system is flawed. Not to mention the fact that every country has a different rating system. What may be R in the US, may be a PG in Canada. Each rating is assigned by a third-party panel. Their decision is based on the organisations standards at best and their own biases at worst. It is far better for us to take responsibility for what we watch. We live in a time when all information on a film is available to us beforehand to make the decision whether we find material in a movie objectionable. I find it plain lazy when people blindly choose their film watching activities based on a secular body instead of making an informed decision on their own.

21 thoughts on “Movies and Chastity

  1. Within in the Church I’ve often heard the term “immorality” used as a synonym (euphemism?) for “sexual immorality”. The problem with doing that is, as you pointed out, it neglects every other area of morality, and often gives the impression that if you aren’t sexually pure, nothing else matters.

    I couldn’t agree with you more about CleanFlix. I don’t see how someone can support morally objectionable entertainment, just because the bad parts have been cut out. It’s still inviting garbage into one’s home, and funding those immoral scenes and language that were cut. CleanFlix seems to give people the false impression that what they are watching is somehow good, once it’s been cleaned up. My Aunt likes to use an analogy of a manure covered marshmallow. Once the manure has all been scraped off, would you then eat the marshmallow? Or would you do as most people, and consider it garbage, once it’s been contaminated?

    Another thing to consider about the MPAA Rating system, is that many filmmakers have a great deal of pull and can get whatever rating they want on a film. If they have a film that they think could be an Oscar contender, the filmmaker will often request an R rating because Academy members tend to look at R rated films as being more serious. On the other hand, if a film is expected to be a big box office draw, filmmakers would rather have a PG-13 rating, to get younger audiences buying tickets. Just something to consider about the ratings in the US. However, while the system is flawed, I think it serves a good purpose, by acting as a general indicator as to how carefully I need to examine the content before viewing them. I have never seen a G or PG rated movie that I felt damaged my spirit, so I generally regard these as “safe”, while anything PG-13 or R will definitely require some due diligence prior to watching. I find it interesting that many church members look at my with shock when they find out that I’ve watched a rated R movie, yet they have no problems watching all manner of PG-13 movies that are far more objectionable than R rated films I’ve seen.

  2. Kim:

    How do you justify arguing against the use of Clean Flix because “someone has to watch the videos” while at the same time propping up the movie ratings systems despite the fact that “someone has to watch the videos” to assign a rating? Information we gather on a film has to come from someone with first-hand knowledge of a film’s content. So what makes the situation less palatable in the case of Clean Flix? While I agree with the overall gist of your post I think you are a little hard on the clean movies industry here.

  3. I don’t prop the ratings system. I think it’s a flawed system. I think people should ignore movie ratings and make informed decisions using their own research and judgement.

  4. My concern isn’t so much that someone has to watch it, but that I would have to pay for the morally objectionable parts in order to get the “clean” parts. If something is so evil that I wouldn’t want to watch it in my home, why would I want to encourage its continued production by providing direct financial support for its creation? CleanFlix deceives people into thinking its o.k. to participate in morally objectionable media, so long as they close their eyes through the bad parts and bleep the curse words.

  5. “Clean movies industry”, well they are breaking copyright, changing original films, that are not supposed to be. So breaking the law to keep a moral law? I don’t agree with such justification. It’s like someone I know who is a good Latter day Saint who justifies having illegal satellite in Canada (a US satellite provider, which is illegal to have in this country) because it lets her watch all of conference, and a Bishop was the one who put them onto it. Doing something illegal doesn’t seem to justify this.

  6. Kim:

    My point is that “research,” in order to be meaningful, has to come from someone with first-hand knowledge of the content of a particular film. The only way to remain consistent in your criticism is to rely entirely upon those involved in the production of a film for whatever information you use to decide whether or not to see a film. My guess is that you don’t do that. So how is taking the word of some movie critic (whatever form that may take) any different than patronizing the movie sanitizing business? Isn’t the moral harm the same regardless of whether a critic sees a movie or an editor for Clean Flix?

  7. I saw a CleanFlicks version of Hustle and Flow on the shelf.
    I thought to myself, wow a ‘clean’ version of a pimp who gangsta raps and gets his rep by pistol whipping another rapper – I wonder what’s left?
    CleanFlicks is a waste of time and resources, not to mention (in my opinion) a huge dump on artistic freedom.
    Either watch the show as it was intended to be seen or don’t watch it.
    I don’t think an arbitrary rating should unjustly modify behaviour by members either. I’ve seen many a movie that had a single objectionable or ‘adult’ situation and that in itself caused the rating to be raised.
    I think many members miss out on fabulous movies due to a strict adherence to the moving ratings gods.

  8. So how is taking the word of some movie critic (whatever form that may take) any different than patronizing the movie sanitizing business?

    For one, I don’t provide monetary support to film creators by reading reviews.

    The point of my comment in #2 (and I thought I had made it clear by stating “and more importantly”) was it was more important to recognise by supporting CleanFlicks, we support Hollywood financially.

  9. Comment On Point #3

    There are some R Rated movies I watch (like the Matrix) that are R Rated because of violent content. On the other hand there are many movies that are PG-13 I feel uncomfortable watching. The first PG-13 movie I saw in the theater shocked me. I really thought they got the rating incorrect. The ratings of a movie really can’t tell you what is on the screen. Make your judgments wisely. But sometimes you get tricked by the trailer and either the movie is not what you thought it would be (morally / sexually) speaking or its just one big stinker.

    Jamie Trwth

  10. endlessnegotiation seems to believe that it is ok to break copyright since CleanFlicks is making “movies clean” Why need to watch it in the first place, and as Rick points out, a clean version of some subject matter…well it just doesn’t fit.

    Movies aren’t that important in the whole scheme of things, really they aren’t. So why cut them up to make them nice and clean. I like Marcus’ description of the marshmallow, it makes a lot of sense.

  11. Mary:

    Re #5, not all the companies that sanitize movies are violating copyright. ClearPlay uses a different technology to edit movies that does not violate copyright protection. CleanFlix just happens to be the example Kim chose to use while I used a more generic term to refer to the entire industry. Please educate yourself before slinging unsubstantiated accusations about what I’m advocating.

    Kim:

    Your argument about “financially supporting Hollywood” is about as legitimate as arguments against uninating in the ocean. They might sound well and good but really don’t make a difference in other people’s behavior or the overall environment. I’ve working on the decision side (finance) of the entertainment industry so I have experience in how decisions are made there. Movies are made with a particular target-audience already in mind. Those on the fringes of that audience are not factored into the equation when a decision on any particular production are made because hitting the desired target already carries high risk (we used discount factors in the 30-50% range). Suppose you want to make a movie targeted specifically at Mormons and you know that if you hit your target you will make money with a particular project. Why would you risk alienating your primary target by including content intended to appeal to evangelicals or Jews or Catholics or excluding content that may offend those same groups but appeal to Mormons? You wouldn’t do that so you stick with your Mormon target and if some evangelicals, Jews, or Catholics see the movie as well then that’s just gravy. What the movie sanitizing industry does is remove the objectionable material and makes the movie more palatable for a very small, incremental number of consumers. Our goal should be to reduce the size of the target market so the movies never get made which is not accomplished through our own individual purchasing decisions. We reduce the size of the target market through converting others to our value system. So why condemn the likes of CleanFlix or those that patronize them?

    In addition, your first argument against CleanFlix is not financial but rather a moral hazard objection about requiring a CleanFlix editor to view objectionable content so that you don’t have to do so. You’ve yet to explain how that differs from a movie critic (who could be your brother or friend at work) viewing the same movie and providing to you insights as to its content.

  12. Well be that as it may, there is something wrong with editing an original movie to appease some sense of superior moral belief. Just don’t watch the movie rather than allow someone to ruin someone’s artistic license. And again you don’t address the real issue.

  13. I don’t think the issue is one of effecting change in the entertainment industry, but of keeping our lives in accord with the commandments of god. By paying for objectionable media, editied or not, we become willing participants in its creation. The only way to avoid becoming a party to this evil, is to avoid these movies all together.

    Imagine someone standing before god at the final judgment, they are asked to explain their viewing of certain films. They reply, “Oh, but I didn’t watch that part.” It seems a little ridiculous to me.

  14. That wasn’t the point, en. I wasn’t advocating withdrawing support from Hollywood. I was suggesting that those who watch CleanFlicks films are bing hypocritical. By buying edited movies, they are fundamentally still buying the original content. Whether the support is negligible or not is not the point.

    You’ve yet to explain how that differs from a movie critic (who could be your brother or friend at work) viewing the same movie and providing to you insights as to its content.

    Actually, I did provide at least one reason. See #8. But here’s one more reason. There’s a difference between using the information from a review to avoid watching a film at all, and another thing to directly pay someone to watch the content for you, so you can watch part of the film while avoiding the content you just paid the person to watch and delete.

  15. Re: Jamie Trwth’s Comment.

    Have you really thought about what you are saying? As I understand your comment, you are saying you feel watching R rated violent movies is more ethical than PG-13 movies that portray morally questionable characters or sexual content.

    I’m not sure the real impact of either such movie, (and by way of disclosure I’ve watched plenty of both varieties) but I think there is something to be said for rating graphic violence as “worse for you” than sexual/morally questionable content.

  16. There wasn’t a whole lot of time for the lesson. Check with Curt. He may have received feedback afterwards. No one outwardly disagreed with anything I said.

  17. re: Jeff in #15

    I don’t know about that.

    Watching violence in a movie or tv doesn’t make me wish I was in the middle of it or participating in any way. It doesn’t give me the urge to go out and start killing random people on the street.

    However, The more sexual content in a movie or tv show, the more the natural man inside me wishes he could participate.

    I think if you are evaluating it from that standpoint, one could argue that that the PG-13, sexually charged show is “Worse”.

    Who knows, there may be people out there that get the same arrousal from violence. I’d specualte they are in the minority.

  18. JM said:”However, The more sexual content in a movie or tv show, the more the natural man inside me wishes he could participate.”

    My one and only question when I read this was…

    …have you seen Brokeback Mountain? =P

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