What Do People in the Flyover States Want in a Movie?


I once heard someone say that the last thing God “saves” in a Christian’s walk is his/her politics. I’m not sure about that. I think it’s his/her entertainment choices.

Even within red-blooded, minivan driving, PTO attending, Red Cross supporting, apple pie eating, flag waving America, there’s a big disagreement as to what constitutes a “conservative movie goer” and what that conservative movie goer should be spending $12 (and an additional $8 for a bucket of popcorn) to see.

Christian Toto, a conservative movie critic that I have a lot of respect for, recently wrote a piece encouraging people to see Patriots Day, out on Blu-Ray and DVD today. He argues that if conservatives don’t support a film like this one, they may not get many like it in the future.

Here’s an excerpt:

Peter Berg is a conservative movie goer’s best friend.

Berg, the director of Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon and now Patriots Day, understands what makes America tick. He appreciates the blue collar workers who keep the nation chugging along. Berg’s movies salute them without irony or disdain.

…conservatives should applaud his vision… There’s simply no one else doing what he does in the industry.

Which brings us to Patriots Day. The story recalls the horror of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing which killed three people and left dozens severely wounded. …Here are five reasons every right-leaning movie goer should see Patriots Day ASAP [and then he lists them].

I understand why Toto is so passionate about rallying movie goers to see Patriots. There was a lot to like. But I disagree with his stance. He overlooks another aspect of what at least many of us in the flyover states want, and that’s a more complete-family-friendly experience at the theater for ourselves and our children.

Patriots Day is rated R for several reasons. Berg let fly over 150 f-bombs in a 133-minute film (more than one per minute). When I screened it, I knew I was in for a long night when I counted about 20 harsh profanities during the first three minutes. I hate cussing and I despise being bombarded with it.

Without trying to over-spiritualize things here, the Lord isn’t a big fan of swearing either. After all, the Creator tells us in His Word (Col. 3:8): “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips.” Even more egregious for me personally (and I know a lot of other Christ-followers, too) are the misuses of Jesus’ Name as if the Savior of all mankind was something foul or unseemly. Patriots Day abuses our Lord’s Name about a dozen times! I wanted a PG-13 Patriots Day and Berg gave me a hard R (like his Lone Survivor).

As much as I appreciated the pro-law enforcement sentiment of Patriots and bombing victims’ inspirational recounting of their stories during the credits, this is not a film I personally can give a thumbs up. Not even close.

I have the wonderful privilege of doing a number of radio and Skype interviews each week regarding Hollywood’s newest releases. When deejays asked about Patriots Day, I often described it as a mixed bag, and mentioned the problematic elements as spoiling what “could have been” a good film.

While we’ll see how the movie does in its DVD release, Patriots underperformed at the box office, earning less than $32 million in North America after its makers spent more than $45 million to create it. I can’t help but think that if Berg had given us a PG-13 version, the folks in the flyover states really would have turned out to support it.

So, back to Toto’s takeaway that “every right-leaning movie goer should see Patriots Day ASAP.” What are your thoughts? And more importantly, if you agree with me, how do we send the message to the Bergs of the world, since staying home or not buying a DVD might just send the message that flyover America really doesn’t want or care about “conservative” films?

Who wrote this?

Bob Waliszewski is the director of the Plugged In department. His syndicated "Plugged In Movie Review" feature is heard by approximately 9 million people each week on more than 1,500 radio stations and other outlets and has been nominated for a National Religious Broadcaster's award. Waliszewski is the author of the book Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids With Love, Not War. You can follow him on Twitter @PluggedInBob.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Allison McElwee More than 1 year ago
I am so weary of hearing the f-word in everyday life. When in the world did this word that alternatively means something vulgar, come to be used as a regular adjective, adverb, or verb?! I'm tired of hearing it! It is a bad word! I recognize that it is used to mean a variety of things, but we are NOT talking about the words, "run," "note," "right," "hog," etc! We are talking about a word that has for decades been an extremely foul word! There is NO excuse. If someone uses this word in front of children, I correct them. This doesn't have to do with Christianity (per say), this has to do with common courtesy. If I can't stand it in real life, why in the world would I PAY MONEY to hear it for two hours by choice?! Thank you, Plugged In for the warning! I do not avoid a movie because if the rating, I avoid it because of the content. Ratings are extremely subjective. Convictions are also personal, look at Romans 15, so we need to be careful not to judge each other. I think, Kal El, that it is important to be considerate of those that find that kind of language (slang, swearing, whatever you want to call it) offensive. We are called to not offend our brother, so a little bit of courtesy would be good. As far as your question, I would say both (f-word in praise and moron in bashing) are wrong. We need to be mindful of all that comes out of our mouth. But, you are correct, out of the heart, the mouth speaks. I'm not condemning anyone that uses that language out of ignorance or habit, I'm just wishing that they wouldn't. 
Kal El More than 1 year ago
You're entitled to your opinion and convictions, but I don't feel about cultural language as you do, and I don't think we should for God. Now, REAL profanity, like abuses of God's name, or racial slurs, that I'll agree is a problem.

It's funny how many Christians hear phrases in their Bible translations like 'filthy language' or 'profane speech' and without even thinking about it, they assume 'that means f-bombs and stuff'. I guess it's understandable for an American Christian to make those unconscious leaps, given that we are, to a degree, a product of the culture we live in. But if one tries to set aside cultural perceptions for a moment then the question arises: where's the list of no-no words in the Bible?
What if it actually means speech that hurts others or disrespects God? Maybe context is more important than whether we use a made up word or not.

For example, a guy graduates from college and his buddy sees it on Facebook and writes a message on his wall: "dude! I'm so [word starting with "F", and ending with "ing"] proud of you! I told you you could do it!"
Meanwhile another two friends have gotten into an argument and one gets so frustrated he blurts out, "geez, sometimes you're such a [word starting with an "M", ends with an "oron"]!"

Which one is truly the unedifying speech? The one who used a cultural no-no word to convey his excitement for his buddy, or the one who used a word not commonly considered a 'swear' but used it to tear his friend down? Biblically I think it's clear the latter was the one guilty of unedifying speech.

One of the reccuring themes of Scripture is that God looks on the heart. Religion would say 'no! The rules we wrote up say NEVER use those words! Not even in an encouraging context!', but God looks at our hearts and the motives therein.

Now, in some settings one should avoid cultural cussing in order to avoid, as the Apostle Paul says, "the appearance of evil", but that's different than making an inappropriately unilateral declaration on something that is a question of perspective and personal leading.

So in the end, I respect your right to follow your convictions, but let's not talk for God. He's wiser than any of us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although as a conservative Christian I wouldn't want to attend a movie that was an f-bomb fest, that isn't why I didn't go see Patriots Day, since I didn't know that about thie film until I read this article. Instead I simply didn't want to see a possibly cheesy film cranked out about a recent tragic event, especially as indicated by casting a Wahlberg in the lead. 
Mechelle Rogers More than 1 year ago
While I think it would have been impossible to portray the events of that terrible day without the violence and gore required for an R-rating, I agree with the other commentator who said that excessive use of foul language is simply lazy writing and an indication of a very bad script. Shame, because the story was worth a better one and those who lived through those events deserved much better. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you agree with me, how do we send the message to the Bergs of the world, since staying home or not buying a DVD might just send the message that flyover America really doesn’t want or care about “conservative” films?
I guess I don't really know how to send that message, except for not watching it or spending money on it.  I'd love to support "conservative" movies, especially family-friendly ones.  But I don't know how to be heard.  Any suggestions?  Thanks for all you do!
Evan Weisensel More than 1 year ago
Step 1. Find a good movie with values you want to support and think you will enjoy. (Doesn't necessarily have to be an explicitly "conservative" movie {labels like that are pointlessly divisive anyways} just a movie you'd enjoy with a message you would like to see more of.)
Step 2. Go to the movie theater
Step 3. Buy ticket and overpriced theater candy that you eat before the previews are done.
Step 4. Enjoy movie.
Step 5. Tell other people you'd think would enjoy the film about the movie as well.
Step 6. ???
Step 7. Profit!

It's not rocket science, vote with your wallet. Support the movies (and other stuff, for that matter) you like and want to see more of, don't support the ones you don't. Simple Capitalism. (Isn't that what you Conservatives are all about today? Capitalism? ;) )

P.S. This is my first comment here.

P.S.S. How do I remain anonymous when I comment?
Phil Goodson More than 1 year ago

A lot of great opinions here. I appreciate a well-thought and well-articulated argument, even if I disagree with the conclusion. If I may continue the discussion...

To Dan Haynes and Bob Waliszewski's point, there is not one homogeneous population of conservative movie goers. We've seen the various stripes of conservatives on display with the election of Trump and the battles within the conservative parties that have ensued. So a "conservative" consensus is not likely.

Anonymous posed a good question to Jesse. I would add that much of the Bible is rated R and is brutally honest about even the celebrated heroes within it's pages. Now, that does NOT give us license to fill our minds with any and all "R rated" content. I think it DOES mean that using the R rating as an indiscriminate blanket to cover all movies that should be avoided is an oversimplification. If movies portray sinful conditions as part of the reality of life to help us to understand the truth about the character or tell the facts of the story, but do not celebrate the sin, I have no problem with it. Of course, Hollywood loves to celebrate sin, and there are plenty of movies that have little to no redeeming value. But they should be judged on an individual basis, not just the rating.

I would agree with Joshua Kroeger and Bob that with 150 F-bombs would not be a "family" movie. I could not take my kids to see it. More family movies are needed.

charitysplace, I wholeheartedly agree that profanity can be used as a crutch to prop up lazy writers. It's frequently leaned on in comedy. Can't think of anything funny? Throw in more profanity and get a shock laugh. However, to be honest with a character, profanity can show a level of rage and chaos within them that you can't get to without it. I assume that with this particular movie, they were trying to be true-to-life. It is what it is. That doesn't necessarily make it lazy.

Kal El, I totally agree that we have to be cautious about speaking for God or making assumptions about scripture. And I agree that cussing is nothing more than made up words that are only "bad" because we've arbitrarily labeled them as bad. As a personal choice, I don't use those words, because they do carry that social baggage. But do I separate myself from others because they choose to use them? Or do I avoid a movie, just because it contains them? No, because that feels legalistic and self-righteous to me. But everyone has to decide according to their own conscience, hopefully guided by the Holy Spirit.

charitysplace More than 1 year ago
In my opinion, cluttering up a script with foul language is sheer laziness; it takes literally no writing talent at all to fill a story with profanities and is a huge turn off to about half your potential viewing audience. At least pull a Shakespeare and get creative with the bad language!

There seems to be a modern misconception these days that if there are no f-words, something isn't aimed at a "mature audience" (age-wise); well, if there were no f-words, I'd recommend a lot more things to a lot more people. A good example is "The Man in the High Castle" -- mind-blowing idea, fantastic characterization, immaculate detail, a modern classic in every sense of the word, cluttered with frequent f-words. Would my parents love it? Without the bombardment of language, yes. Now? Nope. I can't even recommend it to them.

(Someone must have caught on, however, since "that word" made less of an appearance in season two. Perhaps "conservatives" complained?)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
...not to mention it is an anachronism: people didn't use that word in the 1960s
Joshua Kroeger More than 1 year ago
I remember seeing this movie with my brother in the theater, and having already seen Lone Survivor at least, I knew what to expect. I felt the foul language (while undoubtedly meant to present a more "realistic" portrayal of the citizens' reactions) was  almost unrealistically excessive, and was especially offended to hear the Lord's name abused (including with the f-bomb once).  It was a well-made, pro-American film.  But pro-family?  I'll side with Bob on that aspect.
Jesse Roland More than 1 year ago
I simply do not watch R rated movies. I'm not sure how a follower of Christ can, considering what the content will clearly be if it's R rated. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

What about The Passion of the Christ? Is that an R rated movie that Christians can watch?

Just curious on your opinion.
Mark Adams More than 1 year ago
There may be others, but I can think of only a very few movies that are rated R that I believe a Christian could legitimately watch without violating Philippians 4:8-9.  One of those would be the Passion of the Christ.  I believe when it first came out the Cross and the Switchblade was also rated R.  There may be a limited number of war films based on fact that have an R rating due to violence that do not also have an abundance of profanity and/or immorality that may be acceptable for some Christians to watch.  But as the chorus says be careful little eyes what you see and also be careful little ears what you hear.
Dan Haynes More than 1 year ago
You've touched on what I have been trying to explain to people since the Republican primaries last year. There is an enormous gulf between actual biblical Christianity and the God-Guns-Guts variety of "Christianity" that rears its head each election cycle. Thank you.