A Message for Hollywood’s “Oscar” Participants

By: Dr. Ted Baehr; ©2000
Dr. Ted Baehr issues a warning to those in Hollywood regarding the messages in the movies that are being made today.


From Christian Church Leaders and Film and TV Leaders Concerned about Content and Direction in Hollywood Entertainment…

HOLLYWOOD, CA (March 25, 2000)—Hollywood entertainment leaders met with Christian leaders recently to begin an historic dialogue about the influence of Hollywood on society and heard from Kevin W. Mannoia, President of the National Association of Evangelicals, why he felt Christians should play a vital role in the shaping of the entertain­ment industry and not just “throw spears at it.”

The title for the occasion hosted by Dr. Ted Baehr, founder and publisher of MOVIEGUIDE(r) magazine, the authoritative family guide to movies and entertainment, was “Building Bridges: Closing the Gap Between Religion and the Mass Media of Entertain­ment.” It was held on March 16 at the Hilton Universal Hotel, Universal City, California, and jointly sponsored by MOVIEGUIDE(r) and The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which recently moved its headquarters to Los Angeles.

Representing some 45,000 American churches with approximately 30 million mem­bers, Dr. Mannoia said, “The media, as a reflection of culture, often results in a self-fulfilling prophecy and, if the Church is not at the table, it leaves an incomplete picture for the artist and the entertainment industry to bring to the table. If we don’t take that responsibility, we are leaving a picture that is not complete and is not a real reflection of our culture.”

Mannoia, who is also Bishop Emeritus of the Free Methodist Church, headquartered in Indianapolis, IN, spoke about influence in both the entertainment industry and also the church. “I can’t speak from experience about the entertainment industry, but I can from the Church’s standpoint. When the amount of influence exceeds their boundaries it becomes an abuse of power, and there are too many cases in the Church today of leaders who have exceeded their boundaries of authority. There is a very fine line that we have to be careful of. Whether it is a preacher or a filmmaker, whether it is a choir member or an artist, or an actor or actress, there is a principle here that needs careful thought.”

He admitted that he did not know “a lot about the entertainment industry,” but he felt it was important for us “not to cause a reaction or abuse”. He went on, “We need to engage people in dealing with the complexity and completeness, then we find the inbred character of human values, human thought, and the nature of God’s Divine inheritance imprinted on us all.”

He then spoke as to why film was so influential: “It is because the viewer enters into the world of film and in that world there is interaction between the artist and the viewer. For a period of time those of you in the entertainment industry are the parents of our children, and we have opened ourselves to instruction and influence from the film we are seeing,” he said. “It is the intentional choice of the viewer to enter into that dialogue. We enter that world, shutting off the rest of the world, and we say we want to dialogue with you about life.”

Dr. Mannoia then added, “My desire is to see an open and continuing dialogue with the entertainment industry and in so doing I can say that the Church is definitely interested in bridge-building.”

He said that “the cinematic dialogue between the artist and the viewer can often lead to improved social and spiritual values and the Church is vitally interested in those things, because it shapes culture and the human heart.”


Director Michael Rhodes, a five-time Emmy Winner who was awarded the Templeton Foundation’s “Epiphany Prize” as director of 17 of the 21 episodes of the acclaimed CBS­ TV series, Christy, and whose other credits include Heidi, In The Best Interests of the Children, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Romero, said, “As Christians, we share the belief that every person is a creature of God, created in His image. We also believe that our purpose in life is to walk humbly with God in support of His desire for His Kingdom. We must take care not to trivialize God’s Kingdom, particularly with re­spect to our response to popular entertainment.”

He said that condemning sex and violence and supporting family programming is important, but it is not enough. “We can also find examples of the kingdom in some unlikely places that are not entirely ‘family friendly’” said Rhodes. “In the dark places of American Beauty, The Cider House Rules, or Boys Don’t Cry; in the emergency rooms of ER, Chicago Hope, City of Angels; on the streets of NYPD Blue; and in the pris­ons of OZ; God’s pleas for justice and mercy abound.

“With the help of MOVIEGUIDE(r), we have the opportunity to lift up examples of the Kingdom of God, wherever we find them in popular entertainment, celebrate these ‘God Moments,’ and explain why we celebrate them. This is why MOVIEGUIDE’s work is so important.”


Dr. Edwin Louis Cole, the founder and president of the Christian Men’s Network, began his presentation by saying that he was “unequivocally for the Motion Picture Indus­try.” He went on to say, “Movies are not made by an industry but by individuals. Private philosophy determines public performance. It is not true that what a man believes or prac­tices in private life is irrelevant to what he does publicly or professionally. It does matter!

“We do not influence an industry, we influence people. Influence is one of the most precious commodities in life. In Washington, D.C. it is wise to use influence but criminal to sell it. People have gone to jail for ‘influence peddling,’ but they do it imperviously in motion pictures.

“To knowingly influence a person or a society to accept as normal what is and has been abnormal is a perversion of truth. Truth is the only foundation for good character personally or in society.”

Coming from the entertainment industry, as a committed Christian, Rod Hudnut, Enter­tainment and Licensing Vice President & Executive Producer with Mattel, Inc. said, “I be­lieve it is important that all those in the Christian community realize that they are them­selves ministers and leaders, and are called to serve in their own way using their unique, God-given talents.”

After the breakfast, he stated, “Dr. Baehr provides a great service in promoting a constructive dialogue between leaders in the Christian community and the entertainment industry.”


Veteran producer and director Ken Wales, whose projects have included Blake Edward’s Pink Panther films, The Party, The Tamarind Seed, The Great Race, and the television series Christy, said that “the whole question of improving the quality of Hollywood’s product can be answered with three words: Story. Story. Story.

“We’d hope, of course, that good taste and a sense of decency and morality would prevail… the benchmarks of responsible filmmaking.

“Most newcomers to the business think that mega-budgets and superstars will guarantee success. That is not true, as recent history proves. Producers and directors—and investors— would be wise to be more careful in their choices. Choices of people, and choices of story. What seems to work all the time is the original smart choice…the compelling and enduring story. Put on film with sensitive and intelligence. And it must be entertaining.

“Jesus, Himself, understood this. He told a story—taught a lesson—in very simple terms, through the power of storytelling: His use of the parable. The message was clear. His point was made. There was no need for explanation or embellishment. And these parables have stood the test of time for over 2000 years.”


Los Angeles-based securities/entertainment attorney John Cones (author of 43 Ways to Finance Your Feature Film; The Feature Film Distribution Deal; Film Industry Contracts, and Film Finance and Distribution) was also impressed with the rhetoric and capabilities of the panelists, but even more encouraged by the practi­cal approach of Dr. Ted Baehr. Cones pointed out that in addition to the annual awards program honoring ethical and moral programming, Dr. Baehr also uses industry earnings statistics to demonstrate to the Hollywood establishment how profitable family-oriented movies can be. Cones said that criticism of Hollywood movies is not new, and has not been that effective in the past in bringing about long-term change.

He suggests that movies “tend, to a large extent, to mirror the values, interests, cul­tural perspectives and prejudices of their makers and, therefore, nothing short of vigorous diversity at the top in the film industry, will ever result in a significant shift away from Hollywood’s current and long-standing patterns of movie bias.”

Phil Cooke, television producer and director, said, “Anytime spiritual leaders will sit down with leaders of the entertainment industry to discuss moral issues is a positive thing, and Ted Baehr is one of the few people who can arrange something like this. These meet­ings are not so much about ‘issues’ as they are about ‘conversation’—the ability for the entertainment industry to sit and talk with people who are honestly concerned about the moral climate in America. This is an important step toward making positive changes.”

Bob Waliszewski of Focus on the Family, said, “By acknowledging and rewarding examples of positive entertainment coming out of Hollywood, it is my hope that those responsible will be encouraged to produce more along this line, and less along the lines of American Beauty and Cider House Rules.

“For me, that’s the importance of MOVIEGUIDE’s annual gala—it brings to the table those deserving honor for releasing uplifting portrayals, rather than denigrating and debas­ing examples of the human condition. Other award programs seem to overlook this ex­tremely important aspect of honoring the arts.”

Rick Westfall, Director of Graduate Development for The Leadership Institute, com­mented, “More events like the Leadership Breakfast must occur in the future. Gatherings like this can help foster issue awareness among people in different industries, as well as produce relationships that can lead to new motivation.”

Dr. Dorsey Deaton, a retired professor of American social and intellectual history, commented, “What a breakfast! ‘Building Bridges’ with a major toy-maker, the bishop of the largest evangelical organization, a prolific movie producer and the spokesman for a na­tional men’s ministry, chaired by a lawyer-turned film critic. There was surprising agreement on the fact that ‘we help our organizations, and our country, when we are mindful of tradi­tional biblical values in entertainment.’ One unforgettable insight from the Mattel spokes­man who sold $37 million of positive hero figure that was the basis of a cartoon series was, ‘We did well by doing good.’ However, a sobering reminder shared by a network director, was that ‘private practice precedes public performances.’ Continued discussions of this type can only be constructive.”

Dr. Robert L. Simonds, President of the National Association of Christian Educators said, “We need a benchmark to measure movies by God’s standards. If only our pastors would wake-up and use MOVIEGUIDE ® as a monthly ‘feature’ in every church, Ted Baehr could gain obeisance from moviemakers and, in time, homage. It’s our [Christian] audience that provides a major portion of their (Hollywood) wealth.”

Ted Baehr then said, “ There is no doubt that significant bridge-building occurred. And we shall see the fruits of it in our entertainment products in the years to come. The leader­ship breakfast was a unique opportunity to bring together key talent from the entertainment industry and church leaders. I was surprised by the quality of the presentations, the percep­tiveness of the comments and the good will expressed by all.”

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