Sunday, November 6, 2011

Good and Bad Entertainment

The entertainment industry, to no one's surprise, always tries to go as far to the extreme as possible. It's often called "pushing the envelope." The goal is to make lots of money by appealing to our baser human appetites. It plays upon human concupiscence. This has a detrimental effect on us as individuals as well as on society as a whole. I remember that, way back in the early 80's, President Reagan asked the Attorney General Edwin Meese to examine the possible causes of the increase in sexual crimes, particularly towards the young. The Meese Commission found that the rise in the viewership of pornography was a major contributing factor. Certainly, this finding is common sense. The more people are portrayed as objects of pleasure, the more is one's moral sense dulled. People are less apt to be treated with respect.

Things have gotten worse. What was considered pornographic thirty years ago is upgraded to only an "R" or even a "PG-13" rating today. We don't have to go to video games or the Internet to be very concerned about the lack of moral content. There are big problems with what is considered as acceptable Hollywood fare. It's not only the flaunting of sexual impropriety that's bad, it's also the glorification of other vices such as theft, fraud, deception, vengeance and violence. Many action films seek to outdo each other in portraying sensational and disturbing ends to the protagonists. This does nothing more than to try and arouse the desire for revenge and its supposed satisfaction in the audience.

These vices were marks of pre-Christian societies. It was OK to kill an offender, to take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Leviticus 24:19-24:21). Our Lord's teaching brought civility into our world. Our own justice system reflects that. We would rather give a criminal a chance to reform than put him to death. The very word penitentiary comes from penance, a chance to make up for one's transgressions and to change for the better. Vengeance never brings peace. It perpetuates violence.

Sexual license and rampant violence in films are destructive. The films that are popular are those that portray good character, decency and wholesomeness. This kind of entertainment builds up society. To find out how good a movie is in terms of its value, we can go to By choosing good movies, we will not only be entertained but feel good about being human.

By the way, speaking about good films, let’s remember to watch the series called Catholicism which is running on PBS and also on EWTN (see TV listings). It would be good to write and thank PBS for airing this series and to support financially EWTN.

Father Stanley

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