The Rocky Shore

Saturday, July 22, 2006

What's wrong with Syriana?

So I'm going to cut right to the chase with this post: what is the deal with rated-R movies? I mean, most of the Mormons I know agree that anything R rated is unacceptable. I mean, it isn't that I watch R rated movies often, and am seeking to excuse myself; I am just really curious about where this has come from.

It was when I lived in Nebraska; my friends mother came home from some church meeting and announced to us: R rated movies are now a no no. I don't remember what meeting this was, and have no idea who spoke, but from that day forward the mantra of "no R rated movies" has been ever present.

Last night my wife and I watched 'Syriana', it was quite good. Was this movie uplifting? No. Was it supposed to be? No. In the "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet put out by the church (which seems to be the source all discussions run to when things of this nature are discussed) under entertainment it states: "Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable." Syriana is violent, sometimes vulgar and many actions of the characters are immoral, but that is the point of the movie. It does not "present immorality or violent behavior as acceptable", in fact the thesis of the movie is to show that this behavior is not acceptable. It is an R rated movie that seeks to bring to light the evils of our day. I can't seem to grasp what is wrong with this.

Now I know there have been many posts that have discussed this issue, so I'm not trying to flesh it out again. I just really want to know where this conception in Mormon culture has come from? Has anyone of real importance said this? Where? I am looking for sources so that I might understand this issue better.


  • I understand why we are warned to avoid things in our lives that might…. and I stress the word might….lead us down paths that might be best not traveled down.

    Going into bars and sitting on bar stools, even though we might not be drinking anything, is most likely not a wise thing to be doing. Meeting up with your spouse’s best friend for lunch just to “chat” might not be a good choice. Telling your spouse that they might be getting a little fat probably isn’t going to be wise either.

    Running with scissors, brushing our teeth with lye, eating poop, these are all behaviors that we should avoid. There’s no might here.

    So…is watching rated R movies a might or a should?

    Personally I have a very difficult time taking the rating system that comes out of Hollywood very seriously. Who the heck are these people anyway who are deciding what I should watch? I guess I’ve heard that the way movies are rated is by how many “F” words are uttered and how many boobs are shown…. something like that anyway.

    So, if a movie has only three “F” words that’s OK? Or if only a bunch of cleavage is shown but not the entire boob that’s OK too?

    …And by the way, does this capricious way in which we are exhorted to make these judgments of what is or isn’t morally prudent to watch oblige us to actually draw a moral equivalency between a film like “Schindler’s List”(rated R) and “Texas Cheerleader Chainsaw Massacre”(rated R)? (that is a real Hollywood title by the way-check for yourself). Kind of makes the whole thing seem silly when you put it in terms like that huh…Clearly there’s at least a little room for some sentient critical thought in making these kinds of decisions.

    I think every young fellow who is marching down to the recruiters office to sign up to join the armed forces because some girl told him he looks like Tom Cruise in the movie “Top Gun” should be duck taped into a chair and made to sit through the movie “Saving Private Ryan” (rated R) This movie dishes out a pretty good dose of what war is really about…sorry, but war isn’t flying around calling each other by stupid names like “Goose” and “Maverick”. (Well…. actually I guess Air Force pilots really do call each other stupid names like that, but if that’s what it takes to get them up there to fly around with bombs strapped onto there asses, you go dudes!)

    My point being: Can a movie that is trying to really capture the pain and terror of war realistically be made with a G rating? Perhaps it could be made with a PG-13 rating if they just substituted the bombs for boobs…oh, but I’m sure now the boobs might offend a whole other section of people who otherwise might not have been as offended by violent images, even though now we have a more benign rating.

    All of this ‘thinking for myself’ business is starting to make my head spin….I think I’ll go run with some scissors, eat some poop and watch “Singles Ward”.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Saturday, July 22, 2006 11:30:00 PM  

  • Sorry, I must correct something that I said in my previous statement:
    I meant DUCT tape. I don’t want to offend any DUCKS…. Mallard, Oregon or the ugly brown ones that chase you around at the park.
    I have enough problems trying to figure out what movies would be good for me to watch. I don’t need a bunch of rabid ducks trying to tape me up with duct tape just to prove a point. But than nobody said it “Would be easy, just that it would be worth it….”

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sunday, July 23, 2006 6:57:00 AM  

  • For those who are interested, is a great website for breaking down movies. It tells you what kind of violence is in it. It tells what naughty words and images are said and shown. So if you would like to see a movie (rated R or otherwise) and you are not sure if it will offend you, check out that website.

    By Anonymous Jennifer, at Monday, July 24, 2006 7:52:00 PM  

  • Jennifer,
    That is a great tip. Thanks for the information. This will help me make a better INFORMED choice on the movie I want to see.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Monday, July 24, 2006 9:48:00 PM  

  • Hmmm. Does seem strange to take moral marching orders or pattern or limit conduct based on a system created by people who don't share Mormon values. I don't follow their dress code either. So many of the Hollywood promonants are so strange compared to average people that following their lead on anything seems like a strange thing to do.
    I suppose the rating system is thought to have value because there was a time when there was no rating system at all, and word of mouth was a principle means of talking about movie content. A problem seems to be that the system was instituted long ago, and its' implimentation has become a tool for movie companies to promote films, i.e. they want an R rating or a PG rating for their own marketing reasons.
    All that said, it's a broken system which at best gives very general guidance but doesn't really hold up any more as a warning system for parents or invividuals. As usual, our own judgement is best.

    By Blogger jime, at Friday, July 28, 2006 6:45:00 PM  

  • Jime,
    But what about following the "No rated R" rule just because Salt lake says "no rated R" movies?
    Shouldn't we just do it because we have been told to do it?

    By Anonymous ladyinthehat, at Sunday, July 30, 2006 10:21:00 PM  

  • LITH,

    That was one of the points to this post: to try to find out exactly what the bases for such a claim is. Did this come out of Salt Lake? Where can I read it?

    By Blogger Jared E., at Monday, July 31, 2006 12:42:00 PM  

  • I remember when this policy came out. I never embraced it like I should have (shame on me) but my sister latched onto it like a starv'n puppy to the tit!
    I will ask her if she remembers where this policy came from. (Just last night a movie came on and she sat up and said "What is this rated?" I said, "I have no idea...probably R"...she got up to leave but than I brought the guide up and it said PG-13 so she watched it. I thought it was a pretty disturbing movie and I went to bed before it was over...she stayed up and watched the whole disturbing thing: But than it was only rated PG-13 so I guess it doesn't matter that is was a gross and disturbing movie)
    Wouldn't it be great if there was a folder some where out there that had all the different announcements on different policy's and policy changes that we get read in church every now and than....where do those letters from Salt Lake go???? Is there a Bishop or Stake Prez out there who could tell us?

    By Anonymous Ladyinthehat, at Monday, July 31, 2006 10:32:00 PM  

  • ladyinthehat,
    If Salt Lake said no rated R movies, when did "they" say it? I've always been under that impression too, and they probably did issue that guidance. Please don't get me wrong. Certainly nothing bad can come from folowing it. That said, I blogged those thoughts because they are questions I have. Hoping for discussion about them or answers to them at church has been disappointing.
    I like to discuss my beliefs to see if they will stand scrutiny. Blogging is great for that.
    Look for my blog soon about beliefs and fears, a pet subject of mine.

    By Blogger jime, at Friday, August 04, 2006 5:37:00 PM  

  • You know it's really not hard to do a search on the church website:

    I believe this is the talk where it was first given as counsel. To the YW by Pres Benson. (But I may be wrong.)

    I stopped watching r-rated movies years ago, and now if I ever chance to watch one, there's always something in it that will ruin it for me. You build up a tolerance for r-rated things---swearing, gore, nudity--and if you stop exposing yourself to it, you don't enjoy it when you do happen to see it again. Or at least,that's been my experience.

    I watched the movie Good Will Hunting because someone close to me said it was good, there was only some swearing in it. But there was a lot of swearing in it. And one violent scene that to this day is one of the only scenes I can recall from the movie.

    I'm weird about movies, though. I tend to not like what most people do, and really enjoy stuff that most people don't like.

    By Anonymous Susan M, at Sunday, August 06, 2006 12:08:00 PM  

  • Looks like that link is too long to show up properly. Do an Ensign search for "To the Young Women of the Church" by President Benson.

    By Anonymous Susan M, at Sunday, August 06, 2006 12:09:00 PM  

  • Susam M.

    That talk was given to the young women of the Church, so I think I'm in the clear :-)

    By Blogger Jared E., at Sunday, August 06, 2006 10:10:00 PM  

  • Jared, that how it works? When a subject is talked about in Priesthood meeting I don't have to follow the counsel because I'm a woman? YAHOO! HOT DOG! I would never have known this unless I read it on your blog. THANKS FOR THE INFO!!!!

    By Anonymous ladyinthehat, at Monday, August 14, 2006 7:56:00 PM  

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