Posted by: Arden Compton | June 10, 2009

Deception of the media – unspoken messages

Over the years I have come to recognize how unspoken messages in the media influence us and shape our cultural perceptions about what is morally acceptable. We all know there is an increase in blatant pornography coming from many sources. However, why is it that people find this acceptable? I think one of the reasons is that people are subtly conditioned by unspoken messages from movies and other media that seem to be safe. These unspoken messages are very powerful in shaping our perceptions.

For instance, how many times in the movies is it known that “the good guy” has had sex outside of marriage? There might not have been nudity, there may not have been a passionate sex scene that made you uncomfortable. Somehow it becomes known as the movie progresses that “the good guy” has been engaging in sex. Not only is it known, but its no big deal, its not a problem, and it in no way deters him/her from being able to save the day. This is seen very frequently in movies.

For example, a few years ago I saw a movie about a police officer that wins a lottery ticket and shares it with a local waitress he hardly knows because he promised he would when he didn’t have money to for a tip. He didn’t really expect to win, but he is a man of his word, so when he wins he goes back and shares this money with her because “it’s the right thing to do.” In this movie, this police officer is such a nice guy, he keeps doing really good things despite adversity because “it’s the right thing to do.” He says that phrase many times throughout the movie. 99% of this show is really cute and fun. However, in the end he is driven out of his house by a mean wife (she’s the bad guy), the waitress flees her home from an unsafe boyfriend (or exhusband… I’m not sure), and the police officer and waitress happen to walk into the same hotel at the same time. Long story short, they end up spending the night together. There is no “sex scene”, there isn’t even any passionate kissing or anything like that. You just see them embracing, and then the next scene they are wearing matching bathrobes the following morning, still in the same room. What is the unspoken message here? It is OK for the really good guy to sleep (have sex) with a girl he’s not married to. If your wife is mean enough, it is OK to sleep with another woman who is really nice and understanding. The man who kept saying, “I did it because it was the right thing to do,” chose to do this, so this also must be “the right thing to do.”

Can you see how this type of movie could lead a person to unwittingly accept these unspoken messages as true? This is not a singular movie. I am debating how many movies to use as examples, because I could go on and on and on and on. OK, just a few more examples.

One of the fun heros of the big screen is Indiana Jones. In the third movie where they are looking for the holy grail, it becomes known that both Indiana Jones and his father have been “sleeping” with the same girl. They make it a point of humor in the movie, but again what is the unspoken message? This awesome guy sleeps around, and he’s awesome, he doesn’t have any guilt, neither does his dad, it’s funny they both slept with the same girl, no big deal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Another movie a saw with an unspoken message was Transformers. In this action packed movie it falls on a teenage boy to save the world. He ends up being helped by a beautiful girl he had been hoping to ask out, but felt she was out of his league. The scene with the unspoken message came when these two go into his bedroom looking for an item they need to save the world, but the boy isn’t sure where it is in his bedroom. As they are both looking around, the girl goes to look in a chest or something, and the boy uncomfortably says, “No don’t look in there.” What the audience picks up on is that there are probably playboy magazines or something he doesn’t want her to know he was looking at.
Then his parents come home, and they are looking for him, but he initially doesn’t let them know he is in his room. Once they find him there, they want to know what he is up to. He isn’t sure how to explain himself, and his mother assumes he was masturbating. She goes on and on about how that is OK. Then the girl (who had been hiding since the parents entered the room) steps out and suddenly the parents take on the attitude of, “Oh, you have a girl in your room, that’s great… sorry for intruding” They compliment him on having a girl in his room, especially one so beautiful. They may as well given him a “high five” and said, “You scored son! Way to go. You got a beautiful girl in your room, that’s great!” So, the unspoken messages of “masturbation is not a problem,” “It’s OK for the the hero to have porn hidden in the bedroom,” and “mom and dad think it’s great if their son can get a good looking girl in his bedroom” are not to be taken lightly. I don’t want my teenage son to see that movie.

The last Superman movie that came out a few years ago will be my last example. Superman has apparently been gone for five years looking for his home planet. He returns to find Lois Lane is living with a guy, and she has a little boy. It is assumed that the guy she is living with is the father. As the story progresses, we find out that Superman is the father. Enough said about the storyline. Unspoken message: it is OK for the best man on the planet to be a delinquent dad, to have a child and not even know it. It is OK for his favorite girl to be living with a man out of wedlock. She apparently hooked up with him so soon after Superman left that everyone, including the guy, thought he was the father. These are the hero’s of the story that end up saving the world, these are the best people on the planet.

Again, can you see how these unspoken messages shape our perception of what is right and wrong. Years ago we discontinued all T.V. service in our home for this very reason. I am glad my growing children are not bombarded with this as they are developing their paradigms. Many people feel as long as there was no nudity, then it is OK. But I think these unspoken messages are very damaging. They portray as truth a lifestyle that is so far from the standards the God has set for his children for their happiness. Seeing the “good guys” in movies casually having sex with no negative consequences is truly deceptive. I recently had a client come in to see me, a single guy in his mid twenties, who was really shook up. He said, “I just found out I have a four year old son.” In real life these things are huge! I also think for many this is one of the deceptions that lead people to take those first few steps toward pornography and related problems, that soon become terrible addictions.

In the scriptures reference is made to Satan leading people along with a flaxen cord, and then he binds them with strong cords. A flaxen cord is like a very light thread. If you lay it on your wrist or around your neck, it is barley perceivable. If you lay another one around your neck, it doesn’t seem to be any more than the first, and both could easily be broken. But if you allow them to keep piling up, in time you have a strong cord that can not be broken with your own strength.

I think that these unspoken messages are like flaxen cords. You hardly notice there was anything wrong with the movie. In fact, as the action resumes and the good guys save the day, the unspoken messages are seemingly forgotten in the euphoria of a happy ending. People leave saying, “Wow, that was a great movie!” No mention is made of the unspoken messages, because like the flaxen cord, most of the time it goes unperceived, we aren’t aware of how that just influenced our view of right and wrong. Because of these flaxen cords, when opportunities for pornographic material come up, we are much more likely to make the wrong choice. Then we become bound with a strong cord.

I have come to the conclusion that a movie with an immoral good guy (male or female) is not a good movie. In fact, because they show rather than tell, they may be worse than movies where the evil is blatant and more easily identified.

Feel free to comment with your own thoughts.



  1. the media is truely dangerous

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