Valerie Steimle is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a “Mormon” woman). She has been writing as a family advocate for the past 20 years. She is the mother of nine children living in southern Alabama and is the author of four books and a weekly newspaper column, Thoughts from the Heart.

Real family entertainment is difficult to come by at times. As a parent, we check to make sure whatever we watch, read or listen to is tame enough for our children. Raw language, over dramatized violence, and inappropriate relationships seem to be the norm in our culture. Sometimes, it’s even snuck in children’s full length feature cartoons. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we pay particular attention to the rating, language content, and violence of movies as we have been admonished by our church leaders.

strengthen mormon familiesThis past year was a pretty good one for good, clean, uplifting movies. Some good examples of inspiring movies are: Soul Surfer, A Dophin’s Tale, Hugo and even Gnomeo and Juliet. No inappropriate language, no over dramatized violence and no nudity or inappropriate relationships. The stories were interesting and uplifting as well.

How can we tell for ourselves and then guide our children on which movies are appropriate to watch as well as interesting, showing the correct example and moral principles? The movie making business unfortunately, for the most part, is not family friendly.

LDS quote and guidelines new strength of youth pamphlet

Back in March 31, 1930, the Motion Picture Association of America approved what was called, “The Production Code”. This code had three general principles.

1. No picture shall be produced which will lower the moral standards of those who see it.

2. Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented.

3. Law–divine, natural or human–shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for it’s violation.

What a far cry that is to the kind of movies we have today. This type of entertainment has taken its toll on our attitudes in life.

Did the movie “Pearl Harbor” truly portray what happened in history or did it change the story a bit to smooth over relationships with other countries? What about the movie “Titanic”? How are we to feel compassion for Rose’s situation, when she runs away from her family and has sex with a guy she just met a few days before? The historical recreations are changing what we normally visualize as evil for good and it is having a noticeable affect on our children.

In an NBC “In Depth” news report by Mike Belcher on October 19, 1995, teenagers of different backgrounds and lifestyles were questioned about what they watched at the theater. To these adolescents, “violence was perceived as normal” and it was common to see “women in sexual situations”.

Is this what the American public see in their everyday life? I would say not. But through the movies being produced today, we are reinforcing our own stereotypes. We know that in our day-to-day life, most people never see the kind of violence that is shown in the films we watch at the theater. Yet these violent, sex-ridden movies are popular and are supposedly reflecting the kind of life we have in this country.

In a speech delivered on May 5, 1995 to the University of Toronto, Canada, Michael Medved said, “We hear the cries of Hollywood, who say ‘we are just reflecting reality, don’t blame us'”. But as Mr. Medved points out “if the rate of murder from TV and movies were applied in reality, then in just 50 days, everyone in the United States would be killed.”

This is the kind of entertainment our youth are watching. This is not reality but what other people want to characterize as good entertainment. What kind of future will we have with this reinforcement of a false reality?

A report from U.S. News and World Report, September 11, 1995 said “a psychologist, Leonard Eron of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, has tracked 650 New York children from 1960 to the present, looking at viewing habits and behavior. Those who watched the most violent television as youngsters grew up to engage in the most aggressive behavior as adults, from spouse abuse to drunk driving.”

Thinking of the most popular films of the day, the future looks pretty bleak. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to watch family oriented movies that are entertaining too. In fact according to what Michael Medved said in his speech, “the G and PG rated movies have done better on average than the R-rated movies by a ratio of more than two to one.” This was before the PG-13 rating came out. As parents, it is up to us to keep tabs on the movies our children watch. An “R” rating should be a warning sign for inappropriate watching material.

At times we seem to swing back and forth in our praising of Hollywood from good family entertainment, like the movie Soul Surfer, to the violence of Bourne Identity. Somehow we have to get the message across to those making films that families want good movies with descent moral values and no gratuitous violence. Let the good be portrayed as good and the evil be evil. Uplifting movies will strengthen families in a positive way. Our future depends on it.

Additional Resources:

Strengthen families by watching uplifting movies and media. Learn more at the official site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently called by friends of other faiths as the “Mormon Church”).

Attend a local meetinghouse and discover in person what Mormon believe.

Valerie’s website: Strengthen Your Home.


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