View Full Version : Morals in movies?
08-01-2000, 05:18 PM
Just thought I'd ask all your expert opinions.
I've noticed a lot of movie critics crticize some films for being heavy handed with morals and such. The most recent film I can think of is "Chicken Run"... I read quite a few reviews that said it laid on the morals too thick. I didn't see that at all. I loved the film... Then again, I'm a vegan so I may be biased. But I thought CR was really cute, and good for kids to see. And aren't kids films suppose to have morals in them?
The main question: "Are morally ambigious films recieved better by audiences?"
The reason I ask is because my last script, and the script I'm currently working on, both have strong moral messages. Both messages relate to animal rights. And in my first script the heroine actually says something to the effect of "Real men don't fill their bellies with meat for the pleasure of it". Both scripts are in the G-PG rating range.
When I write, I write for a reason, and from my heart. I have ideas that I want to send out there. How do I know if my moral message is too "preachy"?
08-01-2000, 06:26 PM
What about "American Beauty"? Every character (except the nice gay couple) was a complete lunatic, and the worst by far was the ex-military homophobe, who was, of course, a closet homosexual and a Nazi, to boot.
So they gave the writer an Oscar.
Don't worry about morals...if it's a great story (like "American Beauty") it doesn't have to have a moral or morals.
hang em high
08-01-2000, 06:30 PM
I'm a real man and I eat meat. In India they let cows relieve themselves in their drinking water and people are starving all over, so they may have morals but look where that got them.
You better be a very interesting person to pull off what you're trying to do.
08-01-2000, 06:42 PM
You have posed a question which could inspire volumns. Just a couple of thoughts: most people don't want to be preached to, unless it's something they already believe - "preaching to the choir." That certainly doesn't mean you can't deal with moral issues and turn out a very good script. You need to find a way to make it subtle, intertwined in your theme. As a far as an individual character's line, if it comes from the character and not you, they could say or espouse just about anything.
08-01-2000, 09:54 PM
Whoa! Didn't mean to offend anyone's masculinity... In context with the story...in this fantasy world people don't eat meat..it just isn't done. I guess nobody considered it before. Then the villian comes along and eats horses as well as a bunch of other bad things. NOT to imply that people who eat meat are bad! Hoo Boy.
In defense of Hindu religion though, I think India's problem doesn't lie in its religion or Vegetarian values; but in its complex and troubled history, treatment of women, over population problem etc...
Anyway, I DON'T want to be the one to start another argument here, so lets just nip this thing in the bud.
<But speaking of India and cows, there is this really good documentary on the PETA website about the Indian Leather trade. It really makes you think. I recommend it to those who aren't of a weak heart.>
hang em high
08-01-2000, 10:01 PM
You have this whole horse thing going on. . .
08-01-2000, 10:06 PM
Don't nip it in the bud. You have raised an interesting and I think important question. You may get some valuable feedback. Just ignore the crap. What you're talking about is worth exploring.
It's easy to present the seamy side of life. It's easy to solve a scene problem with a gun or a fight or a car chase. You're talking about difficult but important stuff. How to present ideas, moral issues -- to make people think without shoving it down their throats. If it is your aim to explore these things within the confines of the entertainment demands of movies, I applaud and encourage you.
08-01-2000, 10:12 PM
Yeah, what Lilybet said. Don't be afraid of starting a <!--EZCODE UNDERLINE START-->civil<!--EZCODE UNDERLINE END--> argument. We screenwriters (if I may be so bold) can learn from others' point of views and broaden our sense of character.
I might not agree with Veggies Only, but I might gain insight into a future character in one of my scripts. I know there are those who disagree with this concept, and I wouldn't want it to be the only thing going on around here, but I feel there is merit in discussion.
Regarding The English Patient, Seconds, Touch of Evil, Citizen Kane, American Beauty, Schindler's List, Sophies Choice, Once Upon a Time in the West, the entire Star Wars saga (for !! sake), Most of Akira Kurosawa's work...
I say write whatever moral subtext you want, but make it marketable.
You love Fantasy genre. Morality is part and parcel to that genre. And Lord of the Rings did that, and now is being remade with big budget and BIGGER cast.
DON'T worry about morals. Worry about not having an agent, getting an agent, and then letting the agent worry for you.
Nearly meat free (but still luvin' my ales and ciggies),
08-01-2000, 10:46 PM
>>How do I know if my moral message is too "preachy"? <<
Don't say it, SHOW it. Make us FEEL it.
Audiences don't like to be preached to, but they DO like stories about people fighting to do the right thing against all odds. They also like stories about people faced with difficult decisions. Use the story to make your point, not dialogue.
08-01-2000, 11:13 PM
A movie needs a moral but shouldn't be preachy.
A movie has to be about something other than the plot. Call it a moral or a theme or whatever, but movies without one are just one darn thing after another.
Medved (did I hear hisses and boos) says that movies with Judeo-Christian morality (ten commandments) as their themes do far better at the box office, but tank with the critics. He has data to support this, but I like movies with other themes, too.
Preachy movies are a different story. Pesonally, I avoid any movie that "preaches"; that is, tells me the right way to think about an issue (even if I agree with the position). Preachy movies often score with critics since they (the critics) often agree with the movie's position (it's preaching to the choir). Sometimes a preachy movie can do well at the box office, especially if they plot has to do with an underdog overcoming some kind of establishment.
But think about it: the filmmaker can manipulate (it's all fiction) the situations and characters to support his or her position and demonize any opposing view. This what we used to call propaganda, and it's supposed to be a bad thing. Watch "If These Walls Could Talk" with an analytical eye and you'll see what I mean. Then watch "Citizen Ruth" for a great story built around the same issue.
So, if your film is about heroic underdog vegetarians in thier struggle to free animals from evil meat-eating overlords, well, I'll just take my $7.00 ticket money to Ponderosa.
If, on the other hand, it's about a dedicated idealistic young vegan animal rights advocate who, while staging a one woman protest at a large cattle ranch, falls in love with the owner...I'm in.
Anyway, I hope this has been helpful. As always, the best of luck in your career.
08-02-2000, 02:11 AM
What would happen if we learned how to communicate with plants? They're alive, too. In fact, it seems more human to me to eat animals... at least they can run away. A plant is stuck in the ground, helpless.
One of the things I do in my scripts is to argue the other side and prove my hero wrong... in such a way that he has to rethink his position and really decide if it's what he believes in. That way it's not a blind belief, but one that has been examined. And if the hero is a little bit wrong, even better. Makes him human.
But I also love wrong heroes. Guys who think they are doing the right thing and come to discover they are the one in the black hat. There's no instant conversion, here... Sometimes I've had the hero continue doing what he used to think was right and now worries might be wrong. Have him solve his problem using the wrong methods...
But I own TAXI DRIVER on video, too.
08-02-2000, 12:03 PM
Has everyone in here read the book "Erewhon" (everyone should)? I particularly remember the chapter on "The Rights of Plants".
08-02-2000, 04:52 PM
allow me to put YOU on the grill for a moment. if you are questioning whether or not a script ABOUT animal rights would be acceptable, and if a script about that subject could be manufactured WITHOUT preachiness, i harken to a recent thread where the subject of 'perfect characters' was mentioned. you obviously have a passion for horses and cows and feel they should not be chewed. that's fine. but, can you convey this message through a character who sneaks a t-bone when no one is looking? or gets a big mac in the drive thru window, pulls the patty from the buns and has an orgasm as she consumes it? if not, you might yet be unwilling to come down from your pulpit. i think a script can preach (to a point) without being a turnoff, but not if the preacher is a 'perfect character'. i'm not saying such a message can't work in a script, not at all, but i'm inclined to be more receptive if that message is conveyed in the b or c story.
08-02-2000, 08:18 PM
IMO, keep the message to a whisper, rather than allowing it to speak louder than the story. Good themes/messages IMO, remain hidden, appearing only occasionally to be glimpsed. You get the feeling that if you are not paying close attention, you will miss it.
Also, IMO if your message is too direct, you run the risk of making the audience (reader) feel they are being spoon fed your message. Much better IMO to have her say something that is even somewhat hard to construe the meaning of than for it to be too obvious. And you can SHOW her feelings and position on these things, which may be more subtle/effective than through dialogue.
I don't think you're barking up the wrong tree by writing a "positive" script, in terms of getting read, or bought, but if you are trying to convey a moral message, I think you could definitely go wrong if you lay it on too thick. Good luck :)
08-02-2000, 09:13 PM
I think "Cider House Rules" proved you can make a message film work. The story was too good for someone to get very worked up about the pro-abortion aspect of it.
I'm sure there were some people upset about it, but there was no huge outcry against the film. Bottom line is - write a damn good story.
08-02-2000, 10:58 PM
Take the opening shot of Boys in the Hood. From out of blackness, cut to a Stop Sign... effective, blunt, good job Singleton.
On the other hand, take a film like Secrets and Lies... drawn out, trite, lighten up Leigh.
Sometimes, the people that get peeved at a moral message are the same ones who can't take a joke. People who get irritated at an alternate POV - RE "lifestyle", choice of partners or politics - are often the same ones who light the torches and stomp off to burn down a windmill with a supposed "monster" inside. That monster being someone who dared make a wisecrack directed at something they hold dear.
The comic is thereby considered immoral, or amoral. Like Bill Hicks, on occasion.
So let me ask you this: What subjects do you consider to be "taboo" for joke-making? Since we've discussed meat and Indian religion, what are the "holy cows"?
I only ask because there are folks that would go apesh!t (and have) over jokes involving S&M leather-daddies and Darth Vader's choice of attire...
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