Hollywood Uplink – January 2008: Now Playing – Family Entertainment Central

by Rebecca Hagelin, Vice President, Heritage Foundation

If you’re a parent, you know what a challenge it is to monitor your children’s media habits. Frankly, you need all the help you can get.

But because your children need guidance, you know you have to step in — no matter how time-strapped you are. So before they go to a movie, you check out the Dove Foundation’s Web site to get a detailed review of the film — and find out how family-friendly it really is (or, more often than not, isn’t). Before they watch that hot new TV show, you hop over to the Parents Television Council’s site to see if it’s worth tuning in. And if they want to buy or rent a new video game, you pull up the Plain Games site for some guidance.

Wouldn’t it be a real time-saver, though, if everything could be on one site? Well, I have some good news for you: Now it is. Family Entertainment Central is up and running — a veritable one-stop shopping mall for all the reviews and articles you need to make anxiety-free media choices for your children. It links to the three great sites I just cited, with the latest releases in each area front and center for busy parents.

Take the new Denzel Washington film, The Great Debaters. You may have heard that it’s the true story of Melvin Tolson, a professor at Wiley College in Texas in the 1930s. He inspired his students to form the school’s first debate team, which eventually took on Harvard University in the national championship. Sounds like a refreshing change from the usual parade of gunplay and special effects, doesn’t it?

But before heading to the multiplex with your 13-year-old, look at Dove’s review. Yes, the movie emphasizes the importance of education, and it does have some spiritual scenes. But it also has “a very graphic scene of a hanging man, in addition to some strong language.” More details about both problem areas are included, as well as the fact that “an unmarried couple spend the night together” and there are “a couple of scenes in which a woman is groped.”

Now, it may well be that some parents would decide to head to this movie anyway with their daughter or son in tow. Others might preview it for themselves, either in the theater or once it’s out on DVD. But isn’t it better to have been forewarned, no matter what you choose to do? That’s really what Family Entertainment Central is for — to give parents the information they need to make the best media decisions for their children.

Consider the review for another film that’s now in theaters, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep.” Given the positive word of mouth surrounding this PG-rated adventure, I was surprised to see that it lacked the Dove seal of approval for families. The review itself is almost uniformly positive. But there’s one area where the film falls short: language. Specifically, the Lord’s name is used in vain on two occasions. Armed with this information, some parents may decide not to go, but others who opt to take their family anyway could perhaps discuss this with their children ahead of time and stress the importance of using our Lord’s name appropriately.

Beyond reviews of the current movie, TV and video game releases, FEC also provides entertainment news and commentaries to suggest ways to help improve the culture — and to keep you abreast of the latest trends.

Find out, for example, which video game has been banned in Britain for its “sustained, casual sadism.” Read why one New York newspaper columnist thinks that Nickelodeon should drop Jamie Lynn Spears from its “Zoey 101” show if the network truly “wants to be the safe haven it has always promised America’s parents.” And learn which two movie ratings have been adding up to box-office gold over the last year. (Hint: It’s not R, or even PG-13.)

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t visit other Web sites as well to learn more about your family’s media choices. There are other good sites out there that can help you navigate the tricky waters of our modern culture — I’ve spotlighted many of them, in fact, in past columns. But what a help it is to have a parent-friendly site such as Family Entertainment Central. Do yourself, and your kids, a favor and bookmark it now. I can’t think of a better — or easier — way to ensure wholesome entertainment options in the years ahead.

Rebecca Hagelin, a vice president of The Heritage Foundation is the author of Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture that’s Gone Stark Raving Mad and runs the Web site HomeInvasion.org.

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