Remember the days of early “Christian movies?” Hollywood had gone down a dark road, far away from “It’s a Wonderful life” and Christendom responded with syrupy flicks, where everything is black and white and everyone is saved.
I cringe to watch some of them now, but those movies were an effort in the right direction, because they recognized communication as a covenant that should benefit, not just the communicator, but the recipient as well.
I am taking a communications course and a question in the textbook “More than Talk”, by Bill Strom, has captured my attention. How might covenantal principles apply to the world of media and culture?
As Christian believers we understand God’s main covenant is his promise of redemption to us. In the model of covenantal communication, communication takes place in an atmosphere of trust with its end result to benefit another person. It is easy to see how thinking and communicating this way, God’s way, can improve personal relationships, but what if a covenantal communication model were used to apply to mainstream media? What if movies and TV shows were made with a view to not simply entertain, but benefit society in some way, to tell the truth, to ask the deeper questions, and to create believable characters with aspects worthy of emulation?
Hollywood needs to acknowledge that it is a powerful influence on culture. While there are few people that would admit to committing a violent act because they saw it on TV, it is hard to argue that repeatedly viewing violence, extra and premarital sex with no consequences will and has de-sensitised over time as to what is morally accepted.
Every once in a while a movie comes out to a higher standard. Not always perfectly G-rated, though more of those would be great. A story is told that rivets us to our seat and makes us wish we had some of the character’s courage, love or endurance. Movies can be both artistic and beneficial.
I am not naïve. Movie producers want to make money by selling more movies that people want to see. Scantily dressed women, and high speed car chases sell. But, so do stories about a group of marginalized black maids, a quest to destroy an evil ring and a boy sharing a lifeboat with a tiger.
Hollywood needs to take the challenge. Communicate in covenant for the benefit of society. Like it or not, it looks up to you.
Image: “The Real Life of Pi” by Chris Phutully from Australia