Taking a step away from the weekly “good news” updates, I wanted to give a brief history of the city of Hollywood real quickly with a perspective on Hollywoods and its heavenly purpose.
If you have any questions or feedback, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Hollywood, California (1877- Present Day)
◊ In 1877, Harvey Wilcox registered 160 acres of land for the purpose of starting a moral utopia for Christian artists where they could live free from the vices of the world called Hollywood.
◊ From 1903-1910, Hollywood was an independent city that had its own law enforcement, collected its own revenue, and was so prohibitionist that its laws required its neighbor, Los Angeles, to send any traders or individuals carrying alcohol to travel completely around its city limits.
◊ By 1910, the area of land was turned over to the county of Los Angeles for fear of inadequate water during a severe drought. Less than one year later, the first bar was built on what is now known as Hollywood Blvd. At the time the street was called Prospect Blvd. and Harvey’s wife, Daieda Wilcox, had promised free land to anyone who wished to build a church on the street.
◊ The city boomed under Los Angeles governance until the end of the roaring twenties when the Great Depression sent it into a crime-ridden spiral that it never fully recovered from until the beginning of the 21st century.
◊ By 1930, a motion picture production code had been signed and agreed on by all of the major studios in Hollywood due to the addition of sound to moving pictures. The document, known as the Hays Code, contains a statement that shows the responsibility film studios have towards “educators, dramatists, church authorities, and leaders in the field of child education and social work.” The exact language states, “No picture will be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin” (Motion Picture Code, March 31, 1930).
◊ Obscenity, promiscuity, violence, drug and alcohol use, and the ridiculing of religion as well as anti-patriotism were banned or severely limited. All of the major studios at the time were signatories, including Paramount, Warner Bros., Fox, and Universal – all of which are still in business today. The only difference is that every one of these studios now has films and television shows with graphic portrayals of everything that was forbidden in the code.
◊ After the Hays Code was released, there was severe scrutiny by religious media watchdogs such as the Catholic Legion of Decency which was held in high-esteem and exercised influenced with Hollywood studios and producers. Furthermore, even non-studio made films were fined by state censorship regimes and could not be shown inside of the wide number of “family friendly” movie theaters.
◊ Over-time, however, especially after the MPAA ratings system was implemented in 1967, there was a proliferation of obscene and vulgar movies after the decision of what rating a film got was constrained to a board of 8-13 members who must have experience with parenting and is based in Los Angeles, California. The ratings system is a volunteer opt-in for all production studios – no matter the size. There is actually no Federal or even state legislation that requires any film studio to apply a rating to its film. However, theater chains – essentially the gatekeepers of the content made by studios united through an organization called the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO)- have policies that directly tie their ability to show a movie with a specific MPAA rating. If a movie is not rated, the film cannot be shown.
◊ The original ratings system contained only a few options – G for general, M for mature, R for restricted under 16, and X which required an attendee to be 16 or over. In 1972 PG was added, and in 1984 the PG-13 rating was added at the request of director and producer Steven Spielberg. Finally, in 1990 the NC-17 rating replaced an X-rating. The ratings have not really been changed or altered since 1990. The official standards for ratings are not made public and kept between the members of the Board, whose salaries are paid for by all the major studio’s involvement.
Obscenity and Profanity
◊ In 1925, the massively successful film “The Big Parade” contained the first on-screen curse “Goddamit!” In 1939, “Gone with the Wind” was the first film to include the curse, “damn”, which is universally recognized in one of the most famous movie quotes of all time, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” After that, most swearing appeared on television and subject studios to fines and discipline from the Federal Communications Commission (1934).
◊ Important to commercial, economic, and business regulation, the FCC’s powers and responsibilities include distribution of licenses to legally broadcast, yet contain no moral references or basis. For this reason, swearing quickly became taboo, yet worth the risk if ratings went up, and by the time the ratings system was founded in 1968, the most the FCC did was impose fines on those stations or broadcasters who pushed the envelope. Approximately 98% of stations have survived without having their license revoked – mainly because it is rarely an action that the FCC takes.
◊ The President signed legislation to strengthen the FCC’s efficacy in 2006 with the “Broadcast Decency Act.” However, since then the proliferation of cursing and swearing in media has rapidly increased. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the FCC’s power to limit freedom of speech involving swearing and cursing was “unconstitutionally broad” and in the five years following profanity in media increased 69% – including the television show “South Park” using a curse-word over 150 times and the film “Wolf of Wall Street” using the f-word over 500 times or 3.16 times per minute.
◊ Scientific research published in Pediatric Journal shows a strong correlation between profanity and aggressive behavior in middle schoolers.
Promiscuity and Nudity
“The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home should be upheld” – Motion Picture Code
◊ Just five years after Hollywood joined Los Angeles, its studios made the first widely-released American film with on-screen nudity. Audrey Munson, a model and actress from New York, came to California to make it big. Her portrayal in the film, Inspiration, opened the door to the trend of vulgarity and sexuality in major films. What is not known, however, is the horrible nightmare that Munson’s life became. Accusations of her having an affair with a married man tarnished her career. Not long after, the same man’s wife was found murdered. The husband was found guilty and hung himself in his jail cell. This was just the beginning. Munson moved back to New York where she began telling people she was engaged to a man who was a wealthy Baron. The Baron, and marriage, never manifested and in 1922 Audrey Munson tried to poison herself. The result was a media investigation into her life and engagement only to discover she had fabricated the entire thing. By 1931 she was a recluse, but a series of mysterious barn-burnings in her town aroused suspicion and a judge sentenced her to an insane asylum for the next 65 years. She died, still incarcerated, at age 105.
◊ Nudity paved the way, of course, to full on sex-scenes in American cinema. The first on screen graphic depiction of sex from a major studio was in “Midnight Cowboy” in 1969, just a year after the previously mentioned Motion Picture Production Code was revoked.
The drastic rise in vulgar and damaging content in motion pictures is always linked to changes of voluntary ratings and codes that the major movie studios agree to. These major studios are, essentially, at the mercy of their audiences. but the audiences are at the mercy of the MPAA as to how they judge whether content is vulgar or not. In this way, a board of 8-13 people unilaterally decide how 318.9 million people understand and relate to a 38 billion dollar industry. This board of decision-makers is non-transparent and their exorbitant salaries are paid for by the studios they are supposed to be critiquing and checking. The United States Government has had little to no real interference in film content and ratings and there are few to none other independent watchdog organizations who have influence on the ratings system which leaves total ratings control with the MPAA. Until there is a system similar to our Federal System involving direct input and influence by everyday film viewers, families, parents, and children as well as a greater role in rating and interfacing with major movie studios for the purpose of upholding and promoting moral and ethical values in movies by theater chains and religious organizations, we will continue to see a rise in inappropriate content and a degradation of morals in our media.
• The MPAA board can open up and become more transparent, revealing its full budget, salaries of its members, and the amount of money it receives from studios and other backers.
• The MPAA can expand itself to join with fellow organizations similar to who the Motion Picture Studios saw themselves as accountable to in the 1930’s such as religious organizations, educators, social workers, actors, directors, producers and other artists.
• The ratings system needs to be updated to take into consideration anti-religious and occult messaging, degrees of moral and ethical turpitude, and more detailed explanations of the range of subtle to blatant suggestions of evil based on The Bible.
• The MPAA must have stronger standards surrounding profanity, sexuality, and violence who will help contract and work artistically with content producers to help uplift films rather than ban or pass the material by slapping a simple rating on it. This may result in less movies being released each year, but quality – in this case – is far more important than quantity.
• Studios must be encouraged to build and develop relationships with individuals and organizations who are deeply studied and are sincere practitioners of moral, ethical and religious codes. Just as certain films have chosen to bring on consultants with wiccan or scientific expertise, those with moral and ethical expertise should be encouraged to be on set and help with the entire production process.
• Rather than the threat of censorship, the incentive to bring moral and ethical progress to filmmaking must be seen as artistic co-creation between all involved parties.
• Screenwriters and content creators must take oaths and, if necessary, drug tests to prove what they write is not the product of drug use, occultism, or other illegal activities under the laws of our land.
It’a time for another Holywood update! This week we will look at music, film and internet – the seeming “trinity” of the secular world. But how encouraging to see the God-head in action in these three places!
Our first report is of worship leader Lauren Daigle’s new song , “You Say.” What is unique here is not the song, it is quite standard for Daigle, loving, praising and honoring Jesus in a beautiful way. What is unique, however, is its placement in the top 3 Spotify international AND national streamed songs when it was released (it’s still at 5 and 4 respectively). You can watch the video here: You Say.
Since I have heard it, I have been asking myself, “What about this song has captivated so many people?” I encourage you to ask the same thing and then pursue after those things through your own art!
Next, we will move to film. Romans 8:28 tells us, “All things work together for good to them that love God…” and we see proof of this in the Marvel Universe after the recent firing of Guardians of the Galaxy 3 director, James Gunn. I found this news first in a secular entertainment paper where all of the stars of the films had their tweets published. Good ole’Chris Pratt, recently more and more bold in speaking his love of Jesus, had his tweet broadcast to the world. And it was this Scripture,
I just love how major actors are quoting scriptures to very serious incidents without flaunting their own human opinion. This is GREAT preaching and it makes me so happy to see it happening in Hollywood. It’s interesting to see how the others responded, as well. You can read about it here: Guardians of the Galaxy Firing Responses.
Lastly, a kind of bizarre but awesome news piece related to the power of God to use anything to speak. The Bible describes talking donkeys and flying beasts bringing God’s messages – and now we can add Google to the list.
This Vice article (it’s huge news to even report that Vice is doing pieces related to the Word of God!) talks about Google Translate spitting out Bible-based prophecies to its users including Hebrew language translations and the return of Jesus. It also posits an interesting theory about why this may be happening – one being that all of Google’s translations are rooted in The Bible. Of course. Every tongue will confess and every knee will bow! Read about it here: Google Prophecy.
Keep focused on God’s goodness – it will always yield a blessing!
This week let’s look at what God is doing through a more moderate lens – no fashion, parties in the hills, but the still, small voice of God through news and broadcast media and the seasoned voice of veteran reporters.
Kathy Lee Gifford reached out to both Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein as an example of God’s mercy. Her interview about it is here, Mercy for Men, but this is a very important and overlooked point by most Christians. The “#metoo” movement is of a Biblical standard that is calling God’s people of Hollywood to repent for past actions, covenants and agreements that have been far from holy. This includes both Christian (Bill Cosby) and Jew (Harvey Weinstein).
These two men represent their respective faiths and the behaviors and decisions they made that have led to the moral and spiritual pollution in and through our media streams. Kathy Lee’s Christ-like mercy is something that God’s people, especially women in Hollywood, can share to gain the favor of God for this coming season and many more to come.
Dan Rather, the man who took over Walter Kronkite’s seat as “most trusted man in America” has a new book, What Unites Us, and a message he has been sharing in faith. He says, “Humility is the core of patriotism.” Isn’t this true? Humility opens us up to receive God’s grace. Not to point to someone and say that you’re perfect and they are wrong – or another side or perspective. But instead to humbly step back and, combining both Rather and Gifford’s perspective, to say, “We all need Jesus. How can I help?” Rather’s full interview can be found here, Loving America.
Lastly, let’s look at how God is moving through media education. An organization that strengthens filmmaking and Media makers of the next generation in Africa, Del York Creative Academy, just firmed up an official partnership with Hollywood’s favorite school, USC! They will be partnering to do official academic research in the fields of compararative social media habits between America and Africa, equity and access to film studies globally, and the value of diversity on the sets of both blockbuster and Indie films. Check out their website here: Del York Creative Academy.
That’s all for this week. Peace be with you!
Time for another celebration! Three big pieces of news stood out to us that we wanted to share with you as proof that God is on the move in Hollywood!
1. Warner Bros. officially submitted a request with the city of LA to build a sky-tram from their lot in Burbank to the Hollywood sign. This is HUGE! It represents a network “connection” by the new owners of Warner Bros., AT&T between the old and new of entertainment. It may also offer an opportunity for AT&T to build a 5G network when the time comes. Read more about it here: Heavenly Tram from Burbank to Hollywood
2. There is a new sherrif in town at Disney’s Pixar studios and it isn’t Woody! After John Lasseter stepped down amidst allegations of #metoo indiscretions, devout and outspoken Christian Pete Docter, creative head of Toy Story is now Chief Creative Officer of Pixar! We may not be seeing any Disney versions of the Acts of the Apostles anytime soon, but this is still a victory for Holywood! Read more about it here: New Sherrif At Pixar
3. The Vice-president of Nigeria, Osinbajo, just toured every major Hollywood studio with an entourage of Christian actors and creatives Africa. When we say they rolled deep – we mean they rolled DEEP! This is big because every major box office success in Nollywood has contained references to Christ and has featured openly Christian themes. The good news is spreading across the nations- definitely bringing a Holywood flavor! You can read more about it here: Nigeria Comes Knocking
Thanks for viewing – check in with us next Wednesday for another update!
Woooooo! Celebration time! As I celebrate 20 years working for the purification and transformation of Holywood, I pause and give thanks for the incredible progress just in the last year.
Sex traffickers and rapists brought to justice? Check.
Christian movies focusing on and featuring Jesus Christ and Christ-like living? Check.
Repentance and a fresh wind for new innovations of the Holy Spirit? Check.
Here is a video from a recent trip to one of the major studio lots explaining what God is doing with His Bride and Holywood.
Take a look. What do you think?
Holywood is ending religion. If you like religion: sorry.
Listen to this and let us know what you think.