Sensitivity Censors

Filmmaking has become a hazardous job. Just ask the actors in the movie Basic Instincts. The cast included an actor who played the part of a murderer who was a lesbian--and the gay rights crowd didn't like it. Makes lesbians look bad, they said. And they demanded the right to make changes in the script. The film company refused. In retribution gay activists tried to disrupt the filming. They threw red paint, sounded car horns, and chanted obscene slogans. Later another movie producer was looking for an actress to play the part of a lesbian who falls in love with a man. No actresses would take the role. They were afraid the role might offend lesbians, they said, and bring on a new round of demonstrations. So this time the producer knuckled under. He submitted the script to a gay media group and quietly made the changes it demanded. What we're seeing here is a dramatic increase in the power that interest groups exercise in Hollywood. The film industry is going PC. Listen to these other examples. Advocates for the disabled criticized the Peter Pan movie "Hook" for presenting a negative image of amputees. A group called the National Stuttering Project complained about movies like the comedy "A Fish Called Wanda" for including characters who stutter. Groups with the biggest clout don't wait until a film has been produced to voice their protest. They lobby for the right to review the script ahead of time. They're invited onto movie sets to consult with the producers. For example, when Disney decided to turn Jack London's classic novel White Fang into a movie, animal rights groups reviewed the script. They persuaded Disney to tone down one scene where a wolf attacks a man--and even to include a disclaimer stating that healthy wolves do not really attack humans. American Indian groups also wield a lot of clout. The producer of Rope of Sand invited an Indian group to review the script and suggest changes. And when American Indian groups objected to the way Dark Wind portrayed their religious rituals, the producer changed the script. Filmmakers bristle when critics label this political correctness. They prefer to call it cultural sensitivity. Well, no one minds sensitivity. We all get tired of stock characters like savage Indians or stoic Asians or dumb blondes. But can you imagine filmmakers showing the same deference if the groups offended were Christian? Can you picture a producer inviting Christians to preview a script to make sure it was sensitive in its portrayal of Christian characters? No, when Christians objected to the blasphemous movie The Last Temptation of Christ, not a line was altered, and we were denounced as censors. Movies like The Handmaid's Tale and At Play in the Fields of the Lord give viciously negative portrayals of Christian characters. Where's the cultural sensitivity in these cases? As media analyst Robert Lichter says, some groups are clearly more equal than others. Today a homosexual can go to the movies and not be offended. American Indians and people with physical handicaps can go to the movies and not be offended. And with animal rights even your dog can go to the movies and not be offended. But in the world of Hollywood, Christians are still fair game.


Chuck Colson


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