Do Movies Kill People?

"Critics weigh in on what makes violence in film wrong, right and R-rated."

You have probably seen the episode of Friends in which Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) bounces into the living room to find her pals watching the tragic conclusion of Old Yeller. She exclaims, "Why are you guys so upset? It's Old Yeller. It's a happy movie. Come on. Happy family gets a dog. Frontier fun!"

Then, suddenly, Phoebe panics. We realize she has never seen the end of the movie before. She explains that her parents always turned off the movie before Old Yeller gets rabies and is shot. We laugh with the laugh track as Phoebe's face reacts to the harsh reality of the story's conclusion.

It's a hilarious scene. And yet, there's something a little sad about seeing Phoebe's happy illusions erased by the sight of real-world brutality. I know many Christian parents who, like Phoebe's parents, "turn it off" to protect their kids from scary or the tragic episodes. Some reject television and movies entirely. Others even consider it a sin for a grownup to attend an R-rated film, and many blame violent movies for provoking acts of real-life violence.

We are creatures that learn by example, and as Christians, we are exhorted to keep our minds focused on what is honorable, excellent, and worthy of praise. But does that mean we should seek to remain ignorant of such real-world behaviors as sexuality, strong language, and violence? Should we teach our children to "see no evil"?

Film Forum invited critics and readers to respond to questions about violence in the media—just as we did previously on subjects of nudity and foul language—and we were buried in e-mail as a result. Here are a few of those responses, which we hope will provoke further conversations on ...

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May
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