Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #15

Re: Watching Movies

I appreciate your reviews and hear on Al Kresta and the EWTN programs. I receive a boycott list of companies who give money to Planned Parenthood. One of these is Disney. I understand in your position you have to review these movies and pay to see them. But what about the Catholic viewer? I don’t go to these movies because of this. I also understand we are given little choice. I boycott Chinese goods but have to sometimes buy them because I have no choice. I would like your opinion.

Actually, I generally don’t pay to see the movies I review. As a critic, I’m invited by the studios to advance screenings. I also receive DVD screeners of many of the movies I review for DVD release.

In the case of Up, however, I cheerfully paid full price to bring my entire family to see the film after it opened, and would gladly do so again. Disney’s corporate support for Planned Parenthood would not sway me.

This may mean that a tiny fraction of our ticket money may ultimately become a tiny bit of the money Disney contributes to Planned Parenthood. However, the much larger and more immediate effect of buying those tickets is to add to the success of a morally and culturally deserving family film, as well as the success of Pixar, far and away the most consistent force for morally and culturally deserving family entertainment in Hollywood. (For what it’s worth, Pete Docter, the director of Up, is a professing Christian. So, apparently, is Andrew Stanton, director of WALL-E.)

The more successful a wholesome movie like Up is, the more people it will reach both in theatrical release and on DVD, and the more people will benefit from its moral and artistic excellence. Beyond that, the more successful the filmmakers are with films like this, the more leverage and incentive they will have to keep on producing more deserving family entertainment. Not only that, their success also continues to challenge other studios, on the basis of self-interest if nothing else, to seek to win the same audiences with similarly deserving content.

Not incidentally, we also help to pay the salaries of many hard-working people, from the employees at the local cineplex to all the people who worked on the film. Most of all, we enrich our lives and the lives of our children.

On the whole then, society is much more benefited than harmed by people buying tickets to deserving movies like Up. As regards boycotting, I think that a boycott is most effective in the case of a corporation where consumers have the choice of patronizing competitors offering more or less comparable goods and services. Movies are all so different from each other that I think the best way to impact the culture is to support good movies and avoid bad movies, regardless who makes them.

All acts have some negative effects if you follow them far enough. You can boycott Disney if you want to, but consider that half the products in your house probably advertise on ABC, which means at least some of your money goes to Disney anyway! That’s a very remote effect, though, compared to the more immediate positive benefit your purchase represents both to you, the manufacturer and the retailer. Thus, sound moral theology permits such purchases.

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