My first instinct was to begin this blog by writing, “What has happened to Hollywood?” But that’s not the right question. Instead, I should ask: “What has happened to us?”
On Friday night, some friends from one of our groups at Church met at the local movie theater for a night out. We really didn’t have a plan for what to see. We just wanted a good story that would entertain us for a little while – something with action and adventure and intrigue, and maybe an explosion or two – something we could discuss later while we were eating ice cream at Dari-O’s.
Seems simple enough . . . but it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong – we DID see a movie, and we DID meet for ice cream afterwards. But when we sat down at Dari-O’s, no one discussed the movies we had just seen. Not much anyway. And when we did, it was with downcast eyes and blushed cheeks. None of us were proud of what we had just seen. Many of us were even disturbed.
I’m no prude. I need to say that, lest someone reading this blog think I only watch movies with a PG rating or less, or that I think attending movies is a sin of some sort. I don’t, and I don’t. Our group hits the movie theater 7-8 times per year, and we watch all sorts of movies. Generally, as a rule, we steer clear of “R”-rated films, but we all enjoy a good story. We’re even willing to overlook some questionable content as we search for examples of heroism and sacrifice and romance – those human qualities that God programmed us to appreciate.
But those things were not on display Friday night. In fact, there were not many options for the PG-13 crowd. With the exception of a kids film, and a “b-film”, we were presented with these choices: a bawdy, expletive-filled comedy about drug smugglers; a bawdy, expletive-filled comedy about the end of the world; a dark, gritty, violent, expletive-filled drama about a fugitive on another planet, and an assortment of horror films.
In retrospect, we should have left. We should have refused to give Hollywood our hard-earned dollars. But we didn’t. We were there, and we trudged forward. With very little enthusiasm, we split up and went to different theaters. I ended up in the gritty-fugitive-drama theater where I tried to convince myself that the movie must have some redeeming quality if I would just look for it.
After 120 minutes, I can categorically say, it didn’t. Instead, the filmmakers subjected me to an incredible amount of unnecessary bloodshed; an exorbitant amount of profanity, a disturbingly callous view of human sexuality, and a muddled moral mess of characters, none of whom could qualify as a “good guy”. Seriously, there was no hero in the movie. There were just shades of badness . . . and goodness . . . but mostly badness.
This leads back to my original question: what has happened to us? Our first impulse is to blame Hollywood for this mess, but it’s not completely their fault. They produce what we are willing to watch. And obviously, we are watching, entertaining ourselves with raw, unhidden sin. By the droves, we pay our money and stare at the screen, allowing these images to desensitize our conscience and dehumanize our compassion. The very sin that drove Jesus to the cross is now an object of entertainment for us.
I wish I could go back and walk out of the theater last Friday. Many of my friends feel the same way. We probably won’t boycott the movie theaters in the coming months, which will mean more movies that have objectionable content to push aside. But we will definitely be more careful about the choices we make.
I know I will.
After all, Hollywood will never change unless we do.