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Why WORLD covers movies, and why we're expanding that coverage

WORLD IS A NEWS MAGAZINE, AND THAT IS WHY we cover movies. The arts both reflect and create culture -- for better or for worse -- and since WORLD reports and analyzes what is happening in the culture from a biblical point of view, we write movie reviews.

Since we can only review a few of the many movies out there, we are starting this week a regular feature (see p. 13): a comprehensive chart that provides information about the movies currently in release. This will alternate with another comprehensive chart with information about videos and DVDs.

But why? Isn't Hollywood a moral cesspool? Why give so much attention to an entertainment industry that WORLD itself is always criticizing? And even if some movies are innocent or edifying -- and, yes, it might be good to know about those -- why list, much less review, those that are not?

These are good questions. WORLD has tackled them before, but the occasion of our expanded coverage is a good time to consider them again.

WORLD exists to help our readers understand "the world" and to engage current events and contemporary issues in a Christian way. We make our readers aware of the bad things that are happening in Washington. We also feel constrained to make our readers aware of the bad things that are happening in Hollywood.

WORLD's new chart, for example, is instructive even for those who never go to movies. Nine of the 30 movies in circulation are rated R. This is an unusually high number, after a decline in previous months, since the movie industry has recognized that R-rated films do not make as much money as those the whole family can see. Apparently, Hollywood is trying to bring back the R movie. (Ironically, the most successful R movie ever is The Passion of the Christ.) There is even an NC-17 movie on the chart, as Hollywood is trying to slip in some artsy pornography from a respected director in The Dreamers (which, however, is going nowhere at the box office).

But on the whole, we can see from the chart that movies have rather less sex and more violence than we may have thought, while bad language continues. Comparisons of later charts will let us notice trends. Averaging all of the scores of all the movies, the Kids-in-Mind rating for movie theaters as a whole would be 5.5.5.

But that is just information. What about the movies WORLD actually reviews?

We have basically two criteria for selecting the movies that we review. First, is this something our readers would like to know about? We want to help you in making a decision on whether or not a particular movie is worth the price of a ticket, and to help you decide questions, such as, "Should we let the kids go to that new Scooby Doo movie?"

Another reason we pick a movie to review is that it is culturally significant; that is, either because it is attracting lots of viewers, or because it puts forward ideas or aesthetic approaches or values that, whether in a positive or a negative way, are affecting the culture.

Just because we sometimes review an R-rated movie does not mean we endorse it. Rather, we may very likely be reviewing a movie so that we can criticize it.

WORLD may well send a reporter to a pro-abortion rally so that we can write an article revealing the pro-death movement's latest schemes and refuting their lies. In the same way, WORLD might send a reviewer to a movie that is putting a harmful or misleading message out into the culture, especially if that film is attracting big crowds and affecting the way people are thinking. That movie needs to be answered.

At the same time, since Scripture enjoins us to think about "whatever" is excellent and of good report (Philippians 4:8), we want to pay attention to quality work, whether it has explicitly Christian themes or not, since all of life, including the aesthetic realm and the so-called "secular" sphere, is God's dominion.

There are movies that are "excellent." Some do not reflect a Christian worldview -- though the truly excellent ones are honest about the limitations of the worldview that they do embrace -- while others reflect a Christian worldview without realizing what they are doing. While we will point out their shortcomings, movies like these deserve a "good report."

To top off our expanded movie coverage, we are making our movie reviews from past issues accessible on WORLD's blog site: