Should “evangelistic” movies be rated PG?

Should “evangelistic” movies be rated PG? June 13, 2006


Terry Mattingly recently noted — in a column that was picked up here, here and probably elsewhere as well — that the movie Facing the Giants has been rated PG for “thematic elements”, which in this case appears to be a euphemism for the evangelistic content.

Some people seem to be upset by this news, but there is actually nothing new about this. As Mattingly himself notes:

“Facing the Giants” cost $100,000 and resembles a fusion of the Book of Job and a homemade “Hoosiers,” or perhaps a small-school “Friday Night Lights” blended with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association movies that used to appear in some mainstream theaters.

Well, if you go to the list of Billy Graham movies here and enter each title at FilmRatings.com, you will find that those movies which received any rating at all were all rated PG for “thematic elements” or “thematic material”, going back to The Ride (1997).

Prior to that, you have to go all the way back to the PG-13 Caught (1986) to find another Billy Graham film that even received a rating — and back then, the MPAA did not spell out its reasons, though I remember news reports indicated at the time that the rating had something to do with the main character’s drug use.

And prior to that, Cry from the Mountain (1985), The Prodigal (1983), No Longer Alone (1978), The Hiding Place (1975), Time to Run (1972) were all rated PG — though presumably not always for “thematic” elements. The Hiding Place, for example, is set partly in a Nazi concentration camp, and depicts the violence there.

Of all the Billy Graham films that were rated by the MPAA, only Joni (1979) and Two a Penny (1966) were rated G — which seems especially odd in the latter film’s case, given that it involves a guy trying to sleep with his girlfriend, and a few other things.

So there’s nothing new in this story. And I can’t say I disagree with the MPAA’s decision to give PG ratings to evangelistic films; if a movie was actively trying to convert my own children, I would think some parental guidance was in order, for sure.

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  • Everyone needs to watch this clip!! This clip is from the movie “Facing the Giants.” It hits the big screens sometime in September. The movie looks like it turned out great! You have to see it for yourself.

    http://www.franklinfilms.com/giantsclips/

    Also, the film has been all over the media because it received a PG rating for “religious content”, here are some links:

    http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?action=detail&pk;=RELIGION-FAITH-06-07-06

    http://www.family.org/cforum/extras/a0040826.cfm

  • Smells like spam, but it’s on-topic and I like the extra links (even if one of them essentially repeats the very first link I gave in this post), so I’ll let it stay.

    In fairness, though, I would note that the MPAA did not actually say the PG rating was for “religious content” — rather, it was for “some thematic elements”.

    And that’s really no different from the Billy Graham movie The Climb (2001) getting a PG solely for “thematic material”.

    I repeat: There is nothing new about this, and possibly nothing even newsworthy. It seems to me the filmmakers are just capitalizing on this to generate publicity for their film.

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  • Paul

    Actually, Peter, the MPAA said that the PG rating was given because they “decided that the movie was heavily laden with messages from one religion and that this might offend people from other religions.” (Quoted from the Scripps Howard story on the rating.)

    I don’t know that I agree that the ratings board should be the PC-police. And that is my concern here – giving the film a higher rating than the actual content of the film would ordinarily deserve seems a bit over the top.

    Re: the Billy Graham films – can you tell me what the themeatic material was that earned those ratings?

  • Yes, that is a quote from the vice-president of the movie distributor, but not directly from the MPAA itself. It’s hearsay, as it were.

    I am not sure why you say the movie is not being judged based on its “actual content”. It sounds to me like the “actual content” is evangelistic and thus merits the same rating that other evangelistic films have had over the years.

    And no, I have not asked anybody at the MPAA or the Billy Graham association to explain what specific scenes earned the PG ratings on those other films. It would be interesting to know if the producers of any other evangelistic film have tried to use the rating for publicity purposes like this.