Morality and Media

09-26-2021Weekly Reflection

What is the moral influence of film, theater, TV and so forth?

The influence is largely psychological. Media can exert an extraordinary power on habits. Images affect body, soul, and the powers of the mind: the sensitive powers, the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual.

What is a major struggle in dealing with the various media?

People have to struggle for the very inward shape of the personality because we are being drowned by images and messages every day from internet, television, film, and advertising.

How can you judge a particular form of media, film for example, is morally good?

The foundation of good morality is truth. Moral judgment should be based on the truth. A film would be immoral, if it portrayed as its theme human beings to be subhuman or inhuman. Or a film whose goal is to stimulate the base instincts in the human being also known as the seven deadly sins. Individual scenes can be immoral in that sense approving evil rejecting good.

Well can’t evil be treated in media like films, plays and so forth?

The mere fact that such media deals with evil by that fact alone does not make it bad. Creative artists have dealt with evils like murder, drug addiction, rape, brutality, greed, hatred, racism, gluttony and the like. If the problem of evil and even its temporary victory in relating to the whole of the film serves for a more profound understanding of life, of its right direction, of the control of one’s own conduct, and of clarity in judgment and action, then such material can be woven in as a partial content of the internal action of the film. If evil is the goal of this media or if it is approved, if its goal is to corrupt by glamorizing it, this should not be portrayed.

What about nudity and foul language in media?

Nudity has often been recognized as a legitimate subject in painting and sculpture. However, in media nudity is never so necessary that artists would be false to their art by doing without it. The problem is for the media industry to exploit nudity for base purposes, “the cheap thrill” in order to sell their product, and to appeal to base instincts. This is the case today where much media as “mandatory nudity” for no other purpose than money. Many otherwise fine movies are tarnished by such scenes. The same can be said about foul language. Plenty of great media and drama exists and has existed with no foul language.

What about violence in media?

The same principle applies here. If the violence is portrayed for the sole purpose of selling media by appealing to the base instincts of the human being then it is not good. Cartoon/video game violence can desensitize the person by surrounding the violence with an unreality which makes it less objectionable, reduces the expectation of pain, and hardens the viewer to brutality. Viewers become desensitized to violence especially when favored heroes beat and shoot opponents. The moral problem is not presented as important or an issue. Media violence can diminish a respect for life by eliminating the reality of pain and suffering and deadening the senses to the real harm of such violence.

What kind of immorality can there be in media?

There are two kinds: absolute and relative. Absolute means that a particular scene or scenes or the whole production is defective because it violates a norm of morality concerning good and evil in that it does not tell the truth about good and evil. Relative morality is the capacity of particular media to incline a person to sin.

What is art?

Art is the right method of doing things, the person as maker. The test of the artist is the excellence in the work he or she produces. In the case of media art is not reality itself but a production about reality and it should speak the truth. The key virtue here is prudence which involves making correct judgments.

What are characteristics of ideal media?

Respect for the human person according to the true, the good, and the beautiful. Where there is truth, there is goodness, there is beauty and vice versa. Ideal media will guide itself by this and raise the human person to be conscious of his or her dignity as made in the image and likeness of God.

How can we educate or conscience in the use of media?

Communication is governed by the 8th Commandment. Ask help from God in prayer. Make frequent use of the Sacrament of Confession. Learn the difference between good and evil. Learn to live well from conviction rather than for praise or gain. Love the truth and the meaning of law. In doubt consult prudent guides and avoid advice from bad sources. Guard against prejudice, and over-emotional states. Adopt real heroes and heroines. Examine your conscience in the light of the Gospel and Commandments and the teachings of the Church. Seek to know yourself with honesty. Develop the virtue of prudence by consciously acting in accord with what you know to be right.