I think it's actually more difficult to find appropriate movies--or at least appropriate movies that aren't terrible. Almost any comedy is riddled with sex jokes. F-bombs are dropped liberally in both comedies and action films, and nudity and sexual content run rampant across genres. If that weren't enough, even many of the most otherwise benign movies feature gratuitous use of the Lord's Name in vain.
When it comes to entertainment, I've generally tried to base my choices on St. Paul's advice in Philippians 4:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.As I became convicted that I needed to get rid of filth in my home I threw away Wedding Crashers and a number of other movies I thought were hilarious--but absolutely antithetical to my values and beliefs. I've got a handful of movies that I haven't yet tossed--but haven't watched for awhile and am probably on the verge of throwing out.
While many movies are clearly trash, there are a lot of movies that are somewhat more difficult to evaluate. For example, Matt and I are both big fans of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. It's a goofy movie that isn't bluntly offensive the way a film like Wedding Crashers is. But there is plenty of crude language, and the Lord's Name is taken in vain at least a couple times. (I'm not sure how many because I turned it off last time I watched it for this exact reason.)
In many cases, I look to the USCCB website to find the Catholic News Service's ratings. But while I don't want to be overly scrupulous, I sometimes think the ratings--which include five categories from A-I (any audience) to O (morally offensive)--occasionally go too easy on films that should not be watched by anybody. Consider an excerpt from the review for Al Pacino's Any Given Sunday:
Much stylized violence, brutality, sexual situations, locker-room frontal nudity, drug abuse, recurring rough language and occasional profanity. (A-IV) Author's Note: A-IV has been changed to L-Limited Audience: "limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling."It's interesting to me that the moral objectivity of watching a film seems to be assessed by the subjective standard of whether the viewer would find it "troubling." If I don't find frontal nudity, brutality, drug abuse, etc. troubling, these things are still wrong, right? I should still avoid bringing them into my home, correct?
Ultimately, I think it's very difficult to create an objective standard for movies. Many Catholics have criticized Les Miserables for featuring a prostitution theme and immodest dress. The theme--as awful as it is--is one that shouldn't be overlooked because its portrayal offers artistic insight into very real conditions that human beings face. Similarly, I am a huge fan of The Fighter, which is littered with F-bombs and perhaps some brief nudity (I'm not sure--I averted my eyes). But it NEEDS to do so to explore some of the darker realities of our world.
How do YOU determine what sort of movies to watch? Let us know in the comment box.