In 2020, during the COVID economy, Americans spent more than $30 billion on digital amusements, a 21 percent increase from 2019, according to Statista.com.
An underreported phenomenon is the rise of an entertainment genre outside Hollywood that appeals to Americans tired of the violence, sex and foul language found in most Hollywood products.
Some pro-faith, pro-family viewers are dropping Netflix and Prime Video and turning to pro-faith, pro-family competitors like INSP, UP, VidAngel, and Pure Flix, according to Chris DeVille, writing in The Atlantic.
It’s no secret that families are under siege from a media and entertainment world that is openly peddling evil. From Disney’s embrace of all things LGBTQ to the Muppets unveiling a transgender cartoon for toddlers, it’s a full-court press to indoctrinate children via the soft underbelly of the pop culture.
The immoral onslaught is a big reason why Timothy Plan filters out Disney and other entertainment companies from its mutual fund and ETF portfolios.
In the face of all this, parents need to do two things: Screen out the bad stuff while accessing the good stuff.
A number of tools and alternatives have been created to help. The list below of websites and movies and programs is by no means exhaustive.
Founded as a radio show in Atlanta in 1985 by Dr. Baehr, a prolific Christian author and media expert, MOVIEGUIDE® (movieguide.org) analyzes feature films and let audiences know exactly what they’re going to see – for good or ill.
At the very top of each review, MOVIEGUIDE® rates the movies for overall production quality, moral content, and individual categories that include language (profanities and obscenities), violence, sex and nudity. The ratings are: None, Light, Moderate and Heavy.
For instance, “Ready Player One,” the PG-13 rated film from director Steven Spielberg, gets four stars for production quality but a minus two (“extreme caution) for moral content. That’s because it has “heavy” language, “moderate” violence, “light” sex and “light” nudity.
The hit Christian film “I Can Only Imagine” which is rated PG, garners four stars for quality and two pluses for moral content. It has no foul language, sex or nudity, and “light” violence.
Since 1965, when the Motion Picture Association of America began its G to X rating system, movie audiences have had a rough idea of content, regardless of overall quality. But be forewarned: The ratings keep getting laxer.
Even with the warnings, parents can be fooled into thinking a film is okay when it’s not. That’s where MOVIEGUIDE® comes in. Its reviewers tally problematic elements and describe possibly offensive scenes. They also take “worldview” into account. Does the film promote secular humanist values? Is it nihilistic? Does it champion Christian themes? Does it contain elements of both? Does it have unstated but clearly Christian moral content?
Since 1993, MOVIEGUIDE® has held an annual gala at which the “Teddy Baehr Family Friendly Awards” and other honors are presented. The Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala & Report to the Entertainment Industry moved to the Hollywood area in 1996.
The Kairos Prize, awarded by the Christian Film & Television Commission for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays, is a unique honor. Aimed at producing films that are “wholesome, uplifting and inspirational, which result in a greater increase in either man’s love or understanding of God,” the Kairos Prize is sponsored by the Timothy Plan.
In 2020, MOVIEGUIDE® established an internship named after Stephen Ally. The late Mr. Ally had worked alongside his father, Art Ally, founder and CEO of Timothy Plan, and other family members for 25 years before passing away in September 2019 from cancer. As COO and Vice President of Timothy Plan, Stephen helped turn it into a $1 billion firm.
A Hollywood Report Card
Each year, MOVIEGUIDE® provides an annual report to the film industry, comparing box office receipts against moral content – with often surprising findings. Here’s a snippet from a recent report:
“In 2017, movies with very strong Christian, redemptive or moral content and values averaged $57.84 million at the domestic box office, but movies with very strong Non-Christian, false or immoral worldviews averaged only $10.49 million.
“Movies with very strong secular humanist or atheist content or worldviews did even worse, averaging only $1.16 million per movie!”
Known best for its breakthrough cinematic release “God’s Not Dead” (2014) and two sequels, Pure Flix was launched in 2005 as vehicle to entertain while influencing the culture for Jesus Christ.
The company’s early productions were mostly distributed through churches, limited theatrical releases or direct to DVD sales. “Those early years were always a struggle,” recalls David. A.R. White, the leading actor and producer.
The “God’s Not Dead” franchise success allowed Pure Flix to launch a streaming entertainment platform in 2015. Pure Flix now bills itself as “the worldwide leader in streaming faith-centered and family-friendly entertainment.” The network features such popular fare as “The Chosen,” “Veggie Tales,” “Super Book,” “Bibleman,” “The Sugar Creek Gang” and “Drive Thru History.”
A short-lived (22 episodes) series about quirky people on an island in Washington State, “Hope Island” was produced by the old PAX TV network. Starring Cameron Daddo as a Protestant pastor assigned to a tiny church, and Suki Kaiser as his inn-owning, skeptical foil, the series was inspired by the long-running BBC Irish dramedy “Ballykissangel.”
This faith-and-family friendly cable network offers original series (“Bringing Up Bates,” “Growing Up McGhee” and “Date My Dad”), movies and wholesome re-runs, such as “The Waltons” and “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” Originally the Gospel Music Channel, it was rebranded as UPtv in 2013.
The network recently added the UP Faith & Family paid service, where viewers can access an extensive library of dramas, family comedies, movies, animated features, children’s favorites, and documentaries.
Based in Provo, Utah, VidAngel Studios offers a unique filtering service by which moviegoers can be spared profanity, sex and violence in major streaming feature films.
In addition, VidAngel Studios produces original content, including the award-winning, record-breaking series about Jesus, “The Chosen,” created by Christian author and director Dallas Jenkins. Crowd-funded with more than $10 million just for the first season, “The Chosen” completed its second season in early summer 2021.
Launched in 2013, VidAngel began by offering families the ability to skip and mute movies and TV shows available for streaming. The company started making its own content after several major studios – Disney, LucasFilm, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros., Turner Entertainment, New Line Productions and MVL Film Finance – sued VidAngel in 2016.
A federal court in Los Angeles awarded the studios $62.4 million, but VidAngel, which declared bankruptcy, settled with Disney, Warner Brothers and the others in September, agreeing not to “decrypt, copy, stream or distribute content of Disney, Warner Brothers, and their affiliates without permission from the Studios,” drop their appeal and pay nearly $10 million over 14 years.
It was the best thing to happen to the upstart company, according to CEO Neal Harmon. “We’ve had to build a system outside the system. It’s a beachhead for transforming entertainment for the rest of us.”
Dry Bar Comedy
Produced by VidAngel Studios in a former bar in Provo, Utah, Dry Bar has found its own adult audience, with eight million followers on social media and two billion views since its launch in 2017, according to Keith Stubbs, a veteran comedian who books the acts.
The idea is to showcase established and upcoming comedians who refrain from profanity, sexual innuendo and other offensive elements while delivering professional quality stand-up humor.
Available through its own app, Amazon Prime or in some cases, YouTube, Dry Bar has more than 300 comedians on tape.
The venerable Kansas City-based greeting card company was founded in 1910, and branched out into television entertainment in 1951 with its Hallmark Hall of Fame series. Now managed by Crown Media Family Networks, the Hallmark Channel, which features original movies and other programming, was launched in 2001.
In addition to original movies, the channel has featured several series, including “Cedar Cove,” “Chesapeake Shores,” “Good Witch” (yes, sigh), “When Calls The Heart,” and “When Hope Calls.”
In 2004, the network added two more channels — Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Hallmark Drama (2017). These channels also have original films and series.
Overall, the content is clean, family friendly and leans to romantic plotlines. The channels have produced dozens of Christmas movies, which are shown throughout July (“Christmas in July”) and beginning in November through the holidays.
Classic mysteries such as “Matlock” and “Murder She Wrote” and heart-warming family shows such as “Little House on the Prairie” have found a home here.
One caveat: Hallmark is not immune to the ever-encroaching “woke” culture, and has inserted some LGBTQ characters and plot lines into a few movies – so far.
This cable channel based in suburban Charlotte, North Carolina features Western movies and TV shows, along with some morning faith-based programming. Formerly the Inspiration Network, INSP was founded in 1978 as the PTL Television Network by televangelists Jim Bakker and his wife Tammy Faye Bakker. World Evangelism eventually purchased the network from the United States Bankruptcy Court in Columbia, South Carolina.
In October 2010, the network announced a major re-branding with an added emphasis on family programming.
In 2015 INSP introduced a reality series, “Handcrafted America,” in which host Jill Wagner travels the country profiling traditional artisans. In 2016, INSP added another reality series, “State Plate,” in which former “American Idol” winner Taylor Hicks travels to each state, showcasing symbolic and popular foods.
Public Broadcasting System
Parents will have to pick and choose among the fare at PBS, given public broadcasting’s liberal bent. For example, the long-running animated children’s show “Arthur” recently announced that 2022 will be its last season, and will kick it off with Arthur’s longtime classroom teacher, Mr. Ratburn, in a same-sex “marriage.”
“Sesame Street” is the network’s biggest children’s show, with original programming since 1969. It features Muppets-created characters such as Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Oscar the Grouch, Grover and The Count, and real, live humans. Wildly successful, the show has entranced millions of children and their parents but has strayed occasionally into politically correct content. In June, it went full-bore “woke” by introducing kids to a homosexual male couple. That should be enough for parents to “cancel” a once-great program.
PBS Kids features many other quality children’s shows, including “Clifford, the Big Red Dog,” and “Curious George.” A standout is “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” with its Christian themes and pedigree as an animated successor to “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” That’s no accident; the show was co-launched by Fred Rogers Productions nine years after Mr. Rogers’ death. It’s based on the Neighborhood of Make-Believe portion of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and consistently teaches values such as forgiveness, friendship and sharing.
Veggie Tales, which premiered in 1993, is a much-loved computer-generated musical children’s animation and media franchise created by Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki under Big Idea Entertainment. The series, featuring talking and wisecracking vegetables such as Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato, presents life lessons in a biblical context.
For instance, the Book of Daniel’s account of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego going into a blazing hot furnace rather than bow to a statue of Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar is retold in “Rack, Shack and Benny.” In this version, the Israelite veggies refuse to bow to a giant bunny edifice. Other memorable elements in the series are “the Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything,” and “Larry’s Silly Songs.”
“Bibleman®”, an animated series since 2016, began as a live action production in 1995. It went through several revisions, but has always been about Bibleman “sharing the Truth with kids and using God’s Word to fight fear, despair, pride, and a myriad of other issues along the way.”
“Superbook” is an animated series from CBN that has had substantial technical updates since its debut in Japan and the United States in 1981. Featuring two children and a robot who go back to Bible times, “Superbook” has been seen all over the world. Children can experience and interact with Bible stories using the Superbook Bible App and the Superbook Kids website.
“Adventures in Odyssey” is a first-rate audio and video series made by Focus on the Family since 1987. It premiered when Dr. James Dobson was president of Focus. Featuring John Avery Whittaker, a kindly inventor who runs an ice cream shop named Whit’s End, the show features childhood dilemmas, historical fiction and compelling mystery tales (“Darkness Before Dawn”).
“Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection” is an 11-story compilation from Warner Brothers featuring Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Woodstock, Linus, Lucy, Schroeder and the rest of the Peanuts gang at their best. It was all written by strip creator Charles Schulz and produced by Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez, with a jazz score by Vince Guaraldi. This is the same team that made “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and it’s a cut above other Peanuts features.
“Paw Patrol,” aimed at preschoolers through the early primary grades, is a well-produced cartoon with memorable characters such as Marshall the Fire Rescue Dog, Chase the Police Dog, Rubble the Construction Worker Dog, Zuma the Water Rescue Pup, Skye, the Aerial Rescue Pup and Rocky, a Recycling Pup (okay, a bit of PC here). Their pups’ human leader, Ryder, is a boy with a Robo-Dog.
The Classics: Warner Brothers cartoons (Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Foghorn Leghorn, etc.); “Rocky and Bullwinkle”; earlier Disney cartoons (Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy); movies such as “Winnie the Pooh,” “Mary Poppins” (the original), “101 Dalmatians” (the original), “Lady and the Tramp” (the original), “Rescue Rangers” and many others. Of special note is the original, animated “Robin Hood” (1973), which has an all-star cast and is decidedly politically incorrect; Robin battles a tax-hungry, corrupt government on behalf of the people with the help of Friar Tuck and Little John.
A writer for Timothy Partners, Ltd. He is a regular weekly columnist for The Washington Times and Townhall.com and is frequently published by AmericanThinker.com, DailyCaller.com, OneNewsNow.com, and others. He has authored the following books: “A Strong Constitution: What Would America Look Like If We Followed the Law” (D. James Kennedy Ministries, 2018), Invested with Purpose: The Birth of the Biblically-Responsible Investment Movement, and A Nation Worth Fighting For: 10 Steps to Restore Freedom.