Nearly two years ago, I wrote an article titled, “Does the Movie Match the Audience?” (July 2008). It subdivides Family-Friendly entertainment – the kind Dove endorses with its “Family-Approved” Seal – into three subcategories; Family-Friendly, Faith-Friendly and Faith-Based. Each category identifies the amount or intensity of religious content in the story. The article spurred conversations between Dove and executives at the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA). It seems that Christian retailers were experiencing frustration and confusion from some customers who wanted more information about the faith content in movies on the stores’ shelves.
Several movies have been released with strong faith messages, but also containing some graphic violence, rough language or sexual situations, drug or alcohol use; stuff that usually puts these movies outside traditional Dove standards. This resulted in these powerful movies of faith being denied the Dove Seal. A clear example is, The Passion of the Christ, the most powerful Faith-Based film in recent memory, with too much violence to be classified as Family-Friendly.
Two recent faith-oriented films with explicit content are Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. which contains a profanity, and To Save a Life, a story of troubled teenagers involved in drugs, alcohol and illegitimate sex.
There are more movies in the making that could be recommended for families of faith under certain circumstances. They would benefit from a label that identifies the faith messages and includes a cautionary notice about content that may offend some people. That is what Dove is working on with filmmakers and Christian retailers.
This issue will undoubtedly generate some debate, and that’s a good thing. The Bible itself contains some pretty raw behavior which punctuates the human condition and man’s need for redemption. We are aware that drawing a new line that defines “faith-based” stories containing some unsavory behavior can be taken too far, thereby excusing almost anything as a redemptive story.
There are a couple of safeguards that we plan to put in place. First of all, we will rely on prayer and wise counsel as part of our decision-making process. Additionally, my favorite book on faith in films is, Hollywood Worldviews by Christian screenwriter, Brian Godawa (To End All Wars, The Visitation). In his book, Brian separates stories that exploit sinful behavior from those that use sinful behavior to exhort others not to repeat it and rather look to God for spiritual strength and resolve. He states, “By differentiating between exploitation and exhortation, the greatest story ever told expresses standards of morality without compromising its honesty about the human condition.”
Next month, we’ll reveal the new Faith-Based and Faith-Friendly Dove Seals along with cautionary symbols for age appropriateness, and content issues like sex, language, violence, drug and alcohol use, etc.
In the meantime, we’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org