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Movies as ‘graven images’ – what’s up with that?

Dear Lucy: In one of your recent articles you talked about going to the movies. It's hard to find a movie today that is not a fantasy, a fairy tale, an animation or something gruesome. I have grandkids and it's hard to know what's OK to see. What's up with that?

– CT

Dear CT: As a movie lover and a grandmother who enjoys movie dates with my grandchildren, I am pretty sensitive and attentive to movie trends. My grandson, Asa, pays such close attention to movie trailers on TV that by the time he finishes telling you about a movie you would think he already went to see it! Their parents are pretty good about choosing what they should or shouldn't see so I just ask them what's OK for their kids. The ratings cannot always be trusted. At the end of the day, it is about what you as an adult think you and they can bear with decency, good judgment and intelligence.

But here is what I have noticed. Imaginary worlds, fantasies and fairy tales rule right now, even on TV. Look at the power of "Hunger Games," "Game of Thrones," "The Vampire Diaries," "True Blood," and "Batman," to name a few. There was even a re-make of "Red Riding Hood" and "Sleeping Beauty" that was pretty dark. If you pay close attention, you will find that most of these feature superheroes and s-heroes and super-villains offering up a new brand of science fiction taken to a new level with technology.

The other significance is that they are movies scripted to teach lessons on morality, good and evil, or the consequences of bad judgment. Some of them end well and some of them don't. Some are bloodier than others. Some morals get lost in the fantasy and the technology. Some just seem to teach that punishment by any means and anybody is justifiable.

But I have asked myself, "Why is there such a huge appetite for these movies?" I will be the first to admit that what can be done today with computer assistance is a marvel to behold. Here is my theory. There is much that adults and children alike are finding difficult to make sense of in today's world. These movies provide an alternate reality. They provide a place to slip into in the dark and escape for a while. That's what movies have always done except that now, the alternative demands more bells and whistles or shock content to hold our attention. They also get reinforced in the cereal box, the fast food restaurant, the toy store, the shoe store, the radio, the TV, the clothing store, the Internet, Facebook...you catch my drift.

I remember going to the movies as a child and being content to see the same movie two or three times at 20 cents a pop. Today, that's like asking a privileged child to get by on just two pairs of shoes! Or worse, suggesting to the underprivileged child that those shoes don't mean anything so he shouldn't want them.

Today's visuals are very powerful and multidimensional. The statement of morals in the movies I saw as a child was different only in the depth of the color, language, bells and whistles. But there was clarity of who the good guy was and who wasn't. There wasn't quite as much blood or guts or sexual explicitness.

Yet, art mimics life. The distinction between good guys and bad isn't very clear in real life today. So why would we expect art to see it any differently? They make what sells. And just in case you don't have show fare, wait a few months and get your fix at Netflix or the truly affordable Red Box.

I guess what I'm saying is that art is art. It takes its cues from society. Lessons in morality are pretty changeless across religions and cultures. The responsibility for ciphering it and teaching it to our children starts at home and expands into the church, our schools and those we choose to allow access to our children.

One way to think about it is this. If movies are the newest and most powerful of "graven images," what would you like engraved on your babies inner picture screen? There's a lot of stuff that even I don't want to see when I close my eyes!

See you at the movies (maybe),


(Check out Lucy Shaw's website at http://www.heartworks4u.com. You may send your questions to her by U.S. mail to: Heartworks4U, LLC; 4646 Poplar Ave. Ste 201, Memphis, TN 38117 or by e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

(For help with the feelings that get in the way of prayer and peace of mind, get Lucy's new book, "BE NOT ANXIOUS." Order it directly from her at 901-907-0260 or go to her web site www.heartworks4u.com.)


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