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.