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Entertainment Media Analysis Report
A service to His little ones through you in His name by His Word
(2007), PG-13 ["Lite" R-13*] (1hr 56min)
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(While the Scriptural references are certainly not subjective, my commentary may be and sometimes is somewhat subjective.)
Cast/Crew Details Courtesy Internet Movie Database
Production (US): Paramount Pictures, Double Feature Films, MTV Films, Jersey Films, Kernos Filmproduktionsgesellschaft & Company
Distribution (US): Paramount Pictures
Director(s): Richard LaGravenese
Producer(s): Danny DeVito, Tracy Durning, Jordana Glick-Franzheim, Nan Morales, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, Hilary Swank
Screenplay: Richard LaGravenese
Book "Freedom Writers Diary": Freedom Writers and Erin Gruwell
Cinematography/Camera: Jim Denault
Music: Mark Isham, RZA
Film Editing: David Moritz
Casting: Margery Simkin
Production Design: Laurence Bennett
Art Direction: Peter Borck
Viewed At: Driftwood Theater 6
I wish I could have gotten this report to you sooner. The SBCYahoo server was down for a period and the local theater did not show Freedom Writers until this week, a week after it opened on January 5th. And it is yet too expensive to drive to theaters 40 miles away that show a film on opening day.
Though Freedom Writers is a dynamic and powerfully moving film, if any movie will embolden youth into aggression by camaraderie, this one is a likely candidate. I could tell before firing up the CAP analysis model computer that Freedom Writers is another R-13. We'll see what the content of it earns as soon as the numbers are crunched.
Freedom Writers is clearly equivalent to many R-rated films in content revealed by both the Wanton Violence/Crime (W) and Impudence/Hate (I) investigation areas. Freedom Writers is a uniquely violent film and it portrays teens as more potty-mouthed than adults ten to one. Such may be true but portraying teens as potty-mouthed spreads it and perpetuates it. God knew what He was talking about when He warned us of such influences in 1 Corinthians 15:33 "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners." and in Romans 5:19 "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners..." Every "one" of the actors and actresses who demonstrates the sinful disobedience of profanity will be seen/heard by many impressionable teens. Behavior is "catching." Especially to the young when the portrayed behavior is defiance and arrogance. Especially when the behavior intimately touches close to what the young viewer perceives as "home." And as Karan Omidvari at St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark puts it, this age stratum is the impressionable age when it is good to be bad.
Such a shame, too. This film is about a truly courageous teacher in an otherwise impossible situation with a truly noble cause finding success through the heroism of a bunch of inner city kids defeating the stigma placed on them by many before them and around them. It is one of the most moving and emotionally energizing films I have seen. But then, having fostered 38 children over 14 years and adopting eight of them, I have a little bit of a soft spot for kids from the beginning since I have a heightened appreciation for kids who break the mold of stereotype behavior and start to think for themselves as they become able to do the right thing. But the reality of it all is that a noble destination does not excuse an ignoble path. The path through this film, whether accurate to the truth or not, is certainly a bit ignoble.
From the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association comes the following findings regarding the influence of violence in and as entertainment. The agencies revealed the findings in a Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children Congressional Public Health Summit of July 26, 2000:
It is serendipitous that "violence" can be replaced with almost any negative or counterproductive behavior such as sexual immorality, lying, treachery, thievery. brutality... Likewise, on the flip side "violence" can be replaced by honesty, courage, integrity, compassion. Try it. In your mind insert "compassion" in place of violence in the first of the above findings:
This film is a perfect fulfillment of the Joint findings. It gives the impression that the teens in the film experience or witness more murders in the average inner city in one day than all the murders in a year in, for example, Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas (304 in 2004). One might rationalize that with "Just watch the news if you think movies are violent." Well, at least the news does not show the murders happening.
The above findings that reveals viewing violence in and as entertainment "...can decease the likelihood that one will take action on behalf of a victim when violence occurs" was affirmed in this story with one of the teens saying that each day he could expect a body laying on the corner. In saying that, the teen said no one cares enough to get involved. While the gravity of the portrayed situations was indeed serious, exaggeration was the rule throughout the film. The exaggeration was akin to saying "I had to do a task a thousand times" when the truth is thrice. And since, in this average town on an average Friday night, about 80% of the attendees to Freedom Writers didn't even come up to my shoulders I suspect the above public health findings apply well to wherever the film is shown.
But one must always take movies for what they are: entertainment not liable for inaccuracy. I have never seen or heard of a "true story" movie that has not embellished the "true" to some degree to make it more attractive to the target audience, teens in this case. So, you can expect this film to amplify what Hollywood thinks is the teen attitude and milk its lure of teens for what they can. A little defense of that statement: more than half of all moviegoers are minors (ref: Loews short-take trivia). So that is where the cinematic dollars are. Why not serve the stereotype attitudes of the intended audience with tons of camaraderie? And this film does. Particularly nihilism.
Shortly after the LA riots that changed the California culture, at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California freshman and junior English teacher Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank), later called "Miss G", is convinced that racial hatred can be stopped: that the best way to effect that change is to influence youth. Many social scientists and cultural change engineers realize that shaping the youth is the best way to fuel a revolution, good or bad. Mussolini. Hitler. The National Education Association. AntiChristian forces. The "gay" agenda. Many others. Erin was first going to be a lawyer but soon realized the efficacy of social change through the shaping of youth.
To effect her goal, Erin must homogenize four social classes, better known as gangs, at Wilson HS who would rather and often did simply not show up for class: Ghetto (the African Americans); Wonder Bread (whites); Cambodians (refugees); South of the Border (Hispanic, Latino). One of the most bitter class members is Eva (April L. Hernandez) ... AY-va, not EE-va she bellows. Eva openly growls that she hates whites. Her hatred includes Erin because, for no other reason, Erin is white. Eva hates whites because of the perceived power of whites over the minorities. Eva claims such unfair and sometimes brutal domination by whites was demonstrated on her first day of school as the white police arrested her father for a murder he did not commit.
Erin's goal and agenda for uniting the students through the education arena was not received well by the department head, Margaret Campbell (Imelda Staunton). Though all the books Erin wanted to use in her class were available and gathering dust on the school storeroom shelves, Campbell refused to supply the books because of the history of "they" destroying the books. What is meant by "they" is the new minority students due to forced integration. Even Erin's once activist father Steve Gruwell (Scott Glenn) and neglected architect wannabe husband Scott Casey (Patrick Dempsey) -- Gruwell/Casey? Go figure -- did not share Erin's enthusiasm.
On Erin's first day as English teacher she is met with, in addition to bitter resentment, a fight in her classroom. As days progressed classroom attendance dwindled until one day the truant students were herded into the classroom. Erin started her shaping of the kids by making them step up to a line down the middle of the classroom, half the students on either side of the line and facing each other. Erin then set up a number of conditions such as "How many of you have been shot at" and "How many have lost one - two - three - three or more friend(s) to gang violence. The students were to step back away from the line when their history did not include the conditions Erin set up. This portrayal was particularly sobering and heart-breaking as some kids remained at the line after Erin asked about "three or more."
At an opportune moment when the subject of gangs arose ... again ... Erin, in a moment of brilliance, began to equate modern gangs to the "gangs" of Hitler and the Holocaust: that if the kids were arrogant enough to think they were "big and bad" as their gangs changed neighborhoods they could not hold a candle to the Hitler "gangs" which changed countries ... indeed the world. Slowly, keen interest filled the classroom.
By getting two additional jobs Erin was able to purchase journals for each of the students. Her instruction was for each of them to make an entry every day. They did not have to let Erin see the entries -- how can she grade the truth? She would, however, read the journals if the students left them in a special locked closet in the classroom. Soon, the closet was filled with the journals.
Erin also was able to buy a copy of "The Diary of Ann Frank" for each of her students. Even the hardest of them became engrossed in the story. So much so that the class held fund raisers to fly Miep Gies (Pat Carroll), the Holocaust survivor Austrian secretary who harbored Ann Frank to Wilson High. In my pinion, Pat Carroll quite probably gave the best performance of the entire cast as she told stories of her involvement with Ann Frank during the Holocaust. At the end of her presentation, one of the students stood to tell Miep she was his hero. Miep turned that around in a dazzling and sharply pointed reversal to say the students were the heroes. In a capturing moment in an intensely effective way Miep told the students she simply did the right thing. Indeed, the real Freedom Writers were heroes.
As a class year finale for the journals the students prepared, Erin had them type them into book form. It was these journals that formed the "Freedom Writers Diary", published in 1999. It is the "Freedom Writers Diary" that formed the basis of this film.
Certainly things like those portrayed in Freedom Writers happen, but that they happen does not excuse spreading them and perpetuating them by glorifying them in and as entertainment. And granted teens have life harder than ever before in some places in some ways, but that these things happen does not mean they happen in such concentrated density ... except in movies that capitalize on them.
Wanton Violence/Crime (W)
Freedom Writers is intensely violent at times and is clearly equivalent to many R-rated films in violence content. It begins with a long sequence of civil unrest to include gunfire to kill. That the intro sequence uses actual file footage then adding a scene of a teen firing a handgun, ostensibly to kill, may be an example of Hollywood's embellishment of the truth. This, in my opinion, is the same as those whom God warns us about who add lies to the Truth to make the lies seem the Truth. [Rom. 1:25] But it is just a movie.
There are children beating children, repeatedly, brutally; children murdering children; threats with guns and even a gun battle between teens. One of the freshman girls allowed unauthorized entry onto high school property by thugs, each obviously older than the school population and one of them her apparently adult boyfriend, for the purpose of murdering other teens in gang warfare. Child and wife beating. A young boy killed by playing with a loaded gun. The list goes on and is itemized in the Findings/Scoring section. [Prov. 16:29]
Of the uses of profanity, 30 were by teens, three were by adults. Now that is a touchy perspective by Hollywood. It says a lot if movies really are a reflection of real life. But at least an adult was the only one to use the most four of the foul words. And only once. Even the background songs contain profanity. [2 Tim. 2:16, Eph. 5:4, Col. 3:8] Disrespect of authority, contempt for school rules and racial hatred are rampant.
Sexual Immorality (S)
For the most part, issues of sexual immorality are limited to seemingly innocuous matters such as rude gazing, sexual insults, public display of affection, a sensuously placed tattoo and a teen in underwear. However, in one case a young girl accuses her father of sexually soliciting her: "There's the concrete. Pick a spot." [Matt. 25:40, Luke 17:2] No nudity was noted. And no one got in bed with anyone else.
In only one case was illegal drugs noted and then only by reference as Erin asked the class how many knew where to get drugs to which everyone affirmed they did. Erin had the class toasting with sparkling cider once. While the drink was non-alcoholic it is still toasting. A couple instances of adults drinking and a bar sum up the Drugs/Alcohol content of Freedom Writers.
Offense to God (O)
While the teens were portrayed as 10 times as potty-mouthed as the adults, the teens were also the only ones who use God's name in vain with the four letter expletive as well. The adults, Erin to be specific, was flippant with the three-syllable sentence with God's name trailing it, but a teen was the only one to utter the single use of God's name in vain with the four letter expletive. With or without the four letter expletive, God frowns on using His name in vain. [Deut. 5:11]
While calling others "fool" has been and may now be popular, Jesus has something to say about doing so. [Matt. 5:22] Something about hellfire.
While only two murders were seen, there was much talk of murder, murdering, murderers and more.
If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ] or bold. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.
***Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry***
As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.
Wanton Violence/Crime (W)
Sexual Immorality (S)
Offense to God (O)
|There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our more than eight years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.|
|In the name of Jesus: |
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Lord, Master, Teacher, Savior, God.
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