How Hollywood Exploits Kids

What we are discovering in all the political debate about Hollywood is enough to curl one's hair. For example, before the Hollywood Pictures unit of Disney released the R-rated movie "Judge Dredd," the studio tested it before focus groups with kids as young as 13. Columbia TriStar researchers interviewed 50 children between nine and 11 to evaluate concepts for the sequel to "I Know What You Did Last Summer," the tale of a serial killer. And opinions of children as young as 12 were sought for commercial ideas for "Disturbing Behavior," the R-rated MGM/United Artists horror flick. If you ask me, it's Hollywood that's engaged in disturbing behavior -- not just disturbing but disgusting. These are the people who have insisted all along that absolutely nothing is wrong with their rating system or their marketing practices. Well, the wheels came off the Hollywood spin machine after the blistering report released recently by the Federal Trade Commission documented widespread abuses in marketing movies, videos, and music to underage kids. The New York Times, which obtained confidential documents that were sent to the commission by nine studios, recently made these specific abuses public, along with some others. As the Times reported, the documents show that some of the biggest companies in Hollywood routinely recruited scores of teens and younger children to evaluate story concepts, commercials, film trailers, and even rough-cuts for R-rated movies. So not only is Hollywood guilty of peddling R-rated movies to children, but it is guilty of using children to figure out how to do it. Hollywood's response was as vague as the allegations against the industry were specific. In hearings that were held on Capitol Hill, Senator John McCain asked eight studio executives one by one if they would continue marketing to underage audiences. No one gave him a firm, unequivocal "no." Each one reserved the right to make such decisions, movie by movie, saying it's impossible to develop a clear set of rules that covers every situation. Well, if that sounds familiar, it should. The inability to distinguish universal right from wrong and the resulting situational ethics are cornerstones of the philosophy of moral relativism. In such a universe -- and Hollywood surely is the epicenter of it -- absolutes do not exist. The only absolute for moral relativists is that there are no absolutes. That's why nobody in Hollywood will promise not to market films with vulgar language and violence to teenagers. To them, vulgarity and violence may indeed be appropriate -- depending on the situation. And since there are no firm moral guidelines, then more and more vulgar, violent, and sexually abusive situations will be deemed appropriate for underage audiences. The envelope always expands when there are no moral restraints. Christians, of all people, should demand action, and many, like Sen. McCain, are exasperated with Hollywood's refusal to police itself. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas has threatened legislation unless Hollywood cleans up its act. Well, they might as well get started writing those laws, because Hollywood will never adopt absolute standards -- in their moral code, there are no standards -- and they wouldn't even know where to begin.


Chuck Colson


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