Entertainment is both pleasurable and necessary for establishing and maintaining good health. By “entertainment,” I mean the type of activity that uplifts, inspires or relaxes the human spirit. The biblical “There Is a Season” poem acknowledges this truth with its declaration that there is “a time to laugh…and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4 Ecclesiastes 3:4A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
American King James Version×).
One of the saddest realities of the present culture of the Western world is that it broadcasts a type of “entertainment” that pulls one down much more than it uplifts. The themes marketed as entertainment typically focus on self-destructive behaviors that would ruin the life of any individual who practiced them. Further, the pursuit of the way of life shown on the big screen, the television screen or “screamed” from musical presentations would also corrupt the broader community.
The fabulous wealth and influence of the West have enabled it to spread this poisonous product worldwide. Millions of people living in the West would immediately protest, saying their personal values are in no way reflected by the entertainment industry. Nonetheless, the all-pervasive Western entertainment is a prime illustration used by radical religious extremists to recruit terrorists to destroy “the corrupt West.”
In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks, many Americans asked: “Why do so many people in other countries hate us?” “Part of any honest response involves the movies, TV shows and popular music we export around the globe” (Michael Medved, “Can Hollywood Change Its Ugly Version of USA?” Oct. 18, 2001). Many Americans may look at their beautiful homes, pleasant neighborhoods, fabulously-equipped schools or at the freedoms they enjoy and think, “This is America!” If they spent a day watching the latest Hollywood releases, the latest television programs and listening to the most popular music—without looking at any other aspect of America, they would realize in horror, “This is the America that the rest of the world sees.”
Medved noted in the above piece that a Pakistani theater had been destroyed recently by anti-American rioters when showing the R-rated film Desperado. Americans know that Hollywood productions are more fantasy than fact, but people in other parts of the world may not know that. “If you live in Indonesia or Nigeria…you’ll get little chance to balance the negative impressions you draw from The X-Files, Hannibal or Natural Born Killers… No wonder so many Islamic extremists (and so many others) now look upon the USA as a cruel, godless, brutal and vulgar society—a ‘Great Satan,’ indeed.”
Americans say, “Don’t portray us this way!”
In spite of the fact that survey after survey shows that the American public prefers the type of entertainment material that portrays and encourages the values of family, faith and flag, nearly 65 percent of all movie releases in the United States are R-rated, according to Medved.
He made the claim that R-rated movies are the least profitable nearly 10 years ago in his book, Hollywood vs. America (1992). Several years later, a professor of economics at the University of California, Irvine, conducted a major scientific study on this claim. Arthur DeVany’s sophisticated study proved that Medved was correct. R-rated films fared more poorly than “G, PG, and PG13 in all three dimensions of revenues, costs, return on production cost, and profits” (Medved, “Politicos, Hollywood Heavies: They Can’t Both Be Right About Public Preferences,” Feb. 23, 2001).
TV writers, programmers, performers and executives were called the “vulgarians at the gate” by the late Steve Allen in his book by that title. Consider the following statistics: 77 percent of people polled by Family Circle magazine (reported in its May 15, 2001 issue) have a problem with the sexual content of television; 61 percent won’t watch some shows because of the sexual content; 84 percent won’t allow their children to watch some shows for the same reason; 93 percent changed the channel or turned off the television entirely, because of sexual content of a program (Cal Thomas, “Must-Sleaze TV?” 2001 LA Times Syndicate).
Thomas also cited a Newsweek survey from 2000, which showed that over 90 percent of parents of children ages 5 to 17 said that limiting the amount of violence children are exposed to in the media is an important factor in reducing crime.
Why “entertainment” is low quality
Why would the entertainment industry continue to generate a classless and crude product, if people do not want it? There are three fundamental answers to that question. First, they market their product to a small niche of the population—young people who have the money and the inclination to indulge themselves in what Hollywood has to offer. Medved calls them “a relative handful of drooling, subliterate, hormone addled adolescent males” (Medved, Feb. 23, 2001). (I don’t believe he meant to imply that all teens are of this caliber!) Cal Thomas referred to a Federal Trade Commission report of 2000, which found that the entertainment industry is targeting violent films, music and video games to young people (Thomas, Aug. 9, 2001).
Parents may not be happy with television programming, but they’re allowing their children to watch it in record amounts—probably due in part to not knowing how to say “no” to the demands that their children make. According to a Nielsen Media Research report of 1993, children spend nearly as much time learning about life through media as in formal schooling. The average child spends approximately 28 hours a week watching television, not including movies and/or Internet games.
The Parents Music Resource Center reports that American teenagers listen to an estimated 10,500 hours of rock music between the seventh and 12th grades alone—which is more than 95 percent of the time they spend in school over 12 years (Entertainment Monitor, December 1995)!
Second, some producers of Western entertainment are more interested in the respect and accolades that they receive from their peers than they are in turning a profit at the box office. They are independently wealthy enough that they can afford to be so incredibly self-absorbed.
Citing Martin Scorsese as an example of a director with a string of financial failures, Michael Medved wrote: “The horrific, chillingly rendered violence, the loveless sex and gutter language that characterize most of his films may help to alienate millions of moviegoers but they only add to the luster of his industry reputation as a cutting edge artist, worthy of support… Peer respect matters more than box office success to many industry insiders… Instead [of pursuing quality programming that emphasizes wholesome values] industry veterans passionately pursue good reviews, respectability, and serious esteem-providing reassurance to the nagging insecurity that often accompanies the artistic temperament” (Medved, Feb. 23, 2001).
The third reason that Hollywood can afford to continue to produce and market its corrupt form of entertainment brings us back to the sober reality of how Western culture has impacted the world. That is, Hollywood now receives a majority of its income from foreign audiences. As recently as 20 years ago, foreign revenue accounted for only approximately a third of Hollywood’s income, “but in the year 2000, these foreign audiences generate[d] more than 60% of Tinseltown’s cash flow” (ibid, emphasis added).
Consider the irony: Many Americans decry Western “entertainment,” and many foreigners are aghast at the America they see portrayed in the electronic media. At the same time, millions, both in America and in other countries, have an increasing appetite for this type of trash. And they are willing to pay for it. The result: there will continue to be more of the same.
Evil vs. good
At the root of this battle is a spiritual struggle of evil vs. good. It’s not, as many tend to portray it, “good vs. evil,” because good doesn’t struggle against evil—good is inherently better. Nor is this a new struggle, in spite of the fact that human pride causes some to point back a few decades to a time when some godly values were more widely accepted than they are today.
The truth is, whenever men give in to their basest impulses, evil prevails. It’s been so since the beginning.
One of the oldest texts in the Bible is Job. He lamented in his day about an over-indulged generation of children, which did nothing more than pursue entertainment. “They spend their time singing and dancing. They are wealthy and need deny themselves nothing; they are prosperous to the end” (Job 21:12-13 Job 21:12-13 12 They take the tambourine and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ.
13 They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.
American King James Version×, The Living Bible). Because their lives were so prosperous, the youths saw no practical need for God and subsequently had no respect for what He had to say.
And so it will be until the end of the age of mankind. Warning of the end-time world conditions, Jesus said, “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day [of My return to the earth] come on you unexpectedly” (Luke 21:34 Luke 21:34And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come on you unawares.
American King James Version×).
Playing with the devil
Satan is a real being to most people of the world, apart from the West. But evil spirits are relegated to horrifying super-criminals or slow-minded buffoons in much Western entertainment.
Witchblade is a movie cum television series in which a female police officer is both master and servant to a mysterious supernatural weapon. This weapon was supposedly wielded by Joan of Arc and many other “warrior women” down through history in times of great crisis. Dark Angel is another supernatural show about a genetically-enhanced human prototype who battles evil in a run-down world. The main character is also a woman, which is part of a trend to portray women as dominant heroines in a modern world.
People the world around are familiar with the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone , based upon the first of J.K. Rowling’s series of novels about a young boy in a school for witchcraft and wizardry. With each new novel, the boy grows a year older and a year further educated in the “art of wizardry.”
Charmed is a show about three sultry sisters, who are witches. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Angel are similar programs, which mix the typical immorality of Hollywood with the Western proclivity to make demons into dancers. A more childish version of the same tripe is Sabrina, the Teenage Witch —a “comedy” about a bumbling girl with supernatural powers.
Of course, producing programs about demons and other evil, whether in a comedic or horror setting, isn’t new to Hollywood. But now the Hollywood image of “spiritism” has a worldwide audience. How must these programs and movies like The Mummy, Pet Cemetery, Nightmare Before Christmas, etc., come across to the world?
Producers of movies, television or music do not shun evil spirits; they use them as bit players in an entertainment-addicted world. The devil’s power isn’t a laughing matter. He has godlike power over this present world and is committed to using his formidable resources to prevent its citizens from enjoying what is truly good (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
American King James Version×).
Study after study shows that children exposed to violent themes in entertainment are seriously damaged. Sadly, these facts are quickly swept aside in the rush to the ticket counter, the TV remote or the music store. An eye-opening study—for those with eyes to see—has been conducted in various countries to measure the increase of murder after the introduction of television. The shocking truth: Homicide rates doubled within 10 to 15 years. TV was introduced at different times in the countries studied, but the results were the same (B.S. Centerwall, Comstock G. [ed.], “Exposure to Television as a Cause of Violence,” Public Education as Behavior, 1989, 2:1-58).
Crimes of a sexual nature are part of the results, too. “Did we really think that there would be no consequences—no hell to pay—as we slowly repealed personal and corporate codes of conduct? Images and music say to young boys that women are nothing but sex objects. Why are we surprised when they learn and act out that lesson? Their cultural and political icons speak as if sex is a personal entitlement and that women are as disposable as rags” (Cal Thomas, “The Abusive Date. Why Are We Surprised?” 2001, LA Times Syndicate).
The Old Testament concludes with an encouraging promise from God, coupled with a truly sobering warning. The good news is that He has promised to do a work at the end of the age of mankind, which would turn the hearts of fathers back to the children and the hearts of children back to their fathers—restoring the family. The sobering news is, were it not for this work of God, the human family would become so corrupt that even God could not save the resultant world (Malachi 4:4-6 Malachi 4:4-6 4 Remember you the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded to him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
American King James Version×).
The heritage of Western culture is that evil—the family is that important—the work of the Church of God is that vital. WNP