HOLLYWOOD, California, MARCH 26, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II exhorts parents to be pro-active about the media in his message for World Communications Day 2004.
“Families should be outspoken in telling producers, advertisers and public authorities what they like and dislike,” he advises.
Clare Sera, an alumna of Act One: Writing for Hollywood who is collaborating on the “Curious George” screenplay, echoes the Pope’s words. She encourages Christians to be not afraid of engaging those who generate the media.
Sera shared with ZENIT how Christians can use their voice and their money to support what is uplifting and decry what is offensive in the media. Part 1 of this interview appeared Thursday.
Q: Recently, a federal agency initially ruled that a particularly offensive word is OK on TV. Is the medium getting better or worse?
Sera: It’s getting worse and I don’t know why those in charge are not admitting it. I’m sure that even the hardest of TV executives does not want his or her children watching most of what’s on daytime and prime-time TV.
I swing alternately between thinking, “Let the culture crash — we Christians should turn off the TV anyway and participate in our communities instead of sitting in front of the tube,” and then thinking, “I miss the days when my whole family could sit and laugh together at Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Burnett.”
As I mentioned earlier, writing letters to TV stations when you find the programming offensive carries a lot of weight. Encourage them when you like the programs, discourage them when you don’t. No need to be offensive or rude or fearful about it.
We have great strength and power, spiritually and, well, in our wallets. And it is much more powerful to be on the offensive by writing, calling, letting your voice be heard, supporting those who are making a difference, whose writing or directing is uplifting or beautiful — both believers and nonbelievers in the industry.
You also can support programs such as Act One: Writing For Hollywood, which is training Christian writers to be a part of this industry and be the leaven.
In fact, I want to challenge everyone who reads this to not say another good or bad word about a movie or TV show they’ve seen without doing something about it — calling or writing the network or studio and letting them know.
Stop talking about them behind their back. Put it in writing. Good or bad. Just a postcard — you have so much power, you’d be surprised. If we all did that just once or twice, it would make a difference. Just state your opinion.
And now you can even visit the Web sites and send an e-mail. Google up a show or two that you find offensive and send off an e-mail. Then do the same with a show you feel has value.
Q: Have you detected any changes in Hollywood or in how parents and families are coping with the media?
Sera: I might say it’s an exciting time for families, because unlike the ’50s, they can’t pretend that the culture is just fine because it’s presented in an unthreatening package.
We used to include “inoffensive” as a Christian attribute. Not really true, if you’re living like Christ — you’re going to be going against culture, which in itself is an “offensive” move.
Today, parents have an opportunity at every turn to explain, “This is what Christ call us to,” and “This is how the culture differs from Christ’s call.” And to show the difference between what looks pretty and what is truly beautiful — between immediate gratification and depth of soul. Between Britney Spears and Mother Teresa. Of course, that all takes energy.
In the ’50s, parents didn’t have to expend that kind of energy for their kids to live reasonably moral lives. But is that what Christ asking of us — a reasonably moral life? I guess we could say the polarization of the culture and Christianity could be an opportunity for deeper lives in him.
I don’t have kids. If I did, I like to think I would be constantly alerting them to the lies of the media, especially advertising media. Then at least they could be aware of it. There’s no escaping advertising, but again, we don’t have to fear it. We just have to be vigilant in the fight for our hearts.
Check out the magazine Adbusters — it’s pretty extreme, but it’s a great eye-opener — written by current and ex-ad executives; it helps you remember just how much lying is being hurled at you daily. And when you see it as lies, it’s easier to dismiss. We can’t just sit back and pour the media down our throats without chewing.
Q: How should Christians respond to and combat Hollywood and its films?
Sera: Let’s also remember, that, like Soylent Green, Hollywood is people. A lot of them work hard to bring movies and TV shows that are highly entertaining, thought provoking and uplifting to America. To lump them all into one evil pile is convenient, but just not true — or dare I say, Christian.
I work in Hollywood, right there in the middle of it. I love the people I work with. They work so hard. They believe in what they’re writing about, what they’re saying, how they’re saying it.
They are passionate in their pursuit of fame and fortune. They’re fierce because they know what they want. They want riches and glory. They want to be creators — they want to be God. And they put in the hours — and hours and hours — to prove it. What do we do with our hours?
Hollywood is winning because it is more passionate in its pursuit of its religion. We have so much to say, so much beauty and aching truth to bring to the table. Where are we hiding?
I look around the table at work — at those who decide which stories get the green light to get made — and I don’t see many passionate Christians, bleary-eyed from midnight hours of writing or directing or working at being a studio executive. Where are we?
Combat Hollywood with love. Uphold what’s good. Encourage the few — believers and nonbelievers — who are struggling in the fight for true and challenging or delightful and uplifting stories. Empower beauty.