Spirituality for Today Logo



Media Madnesss Gratia Artis

by Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci

Ars Gratia Artis (art for art’s sake) are the Latin words that accompany the roaring lion as the logo for Metro Goldwyn Mayer Motion Picture Studios. I grew up watching their movies as well as those of all the other studios. In the past couple of decades, it is a very rare occurrence for me to be seen at a movie theater. There was a time when MGM in tandem with the rest of the motion picture industry publicly voiced their appreciation of the movie going public and expressed what they called their solemn responsibility — a novel thought these days — for the quality and the high moral standards of their product. What happened!!

It seems that in our present culture a movie of true quality defined as the prominence of excellent writing and acting rather than special effects and of high moral standards defined as God-centered values is relegated to the scrap heap. I am convinced that today’s movie industry moguls would not even be able to comprehend these bygone realities.

Anyone with a competent spiritual sense and common sense realizes that almost every standard of morality and civilized behavior has demurred to the current ethic of mediocrity and indifference. What we call entertainment has simply followed suit. When a society becomes inured to and even celebrates such evils as graphic violence, gratuitous sex, and profanity, I tremble for its future. "You cannot but know that we live in a period of chastisement and ruin; the enemy of mankind has caused the breath of corruption to fly over all regions; we behold nothing but unpunished wickedness. The laws of men or the laws of religion have no longer sufficient power to check the depravity of manners and the triumph of the wicked." This statement of St. Bernard of Clairvaux is remarkably apt for the present age. Oh, for the halcyon days of the Hays Commission and the Catholic Legion of Decency.

For those readers who may be either too young or uninformed about these entities, the Hays Commission and the Catholic Legion of Decency worked hand and hand with the motion picture industry as its conscience. It was an attempt at self-governance; some might consider this to be censorship. If one calls good taste, sensitivity, and responsibility censorship, then it was. As time progressed all topics could be explored, but in a dignified way. Today’s censors seems to reject anything that does not promote every form of immorality.

I am positive that some of you feel that I am being too melodramatic about the whole situation or that I am dismissing the occasional outstanding film which has managed to extricate itself from the present environment. I will agree that the remakes of certain works of classical literature and number of the new creative efforts have achieved the standards of the past. However, for the most part, I feel betrayed by an "old friend" and I long for the day when I could settle down into a comfortable seat with a box of hot buttered popcorn and eagerly await a motion picture by which I shall be truly entertained rather than assaulted.

copyright © 1998-2005, Spirituality for Today