ChildCare Action Project (CAP): Christian Analysis of American Culture


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Entertainment Media Analysis Report
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Pay It Forward (2000), (PG-13)
CAP Score: 41
CAP Influence Density: 1.48

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ALERT: To fully understand this report you should first visit the topics suggested by the CAP Table of Contents.

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NOTE: The CAP Analysis Model makes no scoring allowances for trumped-up "messages" to excuse or for manufacturing of justification for aberrant behavior or imagery, or for camouflaging such ignominy with "redeeming" programming. Disguising sinful behavior in a theme or plot does not excuse the sinful behavior of either the one who is drawing pleasure from the sinful display or the practitioners demonstrating the sinful behavior. This is NOT a movie review service. It is a movie analysis service to parents and grandparents to tell them the truth about movies using the Truth. If you do not want the plot, ending, or "secrets" of a movie spoiled for you, skip the Summary/Commentary. In any case, be sure to visit the Findings/Scoring section -- it is purely objective and is the heart of the CAP Entertainment Media Analysis Model applied to this movie

"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." [Emphasis is mine] And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I aplaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our five-year 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.

If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary likely using a mix of KJV and NIV.


PAY IT FORWARD (PG-13) -- another "R-13" and more schoolyard murder.

As if the benevolence and cuteness are to excuse evil and dark sinister programming. The end of the movie is the beginning of this analysis. As I say in the sidebar notes above, if you don't want the story or plot spoiled, don't read our analyses. At least skip the Summary/Commentary and go straight to the heart of the CAP analysis model, the Findings/Scoring section below.

As Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) comes to the rescue of a fellow classmate who is being bullied, one of the two bullies pulls a knife and stabs Trevor when they can't overpower him. And the penetration of the knife into the body of the 11 year old boy is as plain as any hard R show presents. And, of course, there are absolutely no consequences to the assailants. Not even a mention of consequences for the assailants was noted. The only consequence shown of the schoolyard murder is the blood, the mother's pain and the boy's death. And the 11 year old assailants show as much steely disregard as a seasoned murderer -- just like in the movies. Just like the (then) teen idol Leonardo DiCaprio in The Basketball Diaries (1995), the movie believed to have had influence on the decision of a 14 year old to shoot eight of his classmates early Monday morning, December 1, 1997 in Paducah, KY. All this is for the viewing pleasure of your 13 year old (and younger) kids [Luke 17:2].

Much of this movie is more dark theft of childhood from children, and children will probably love it [Matt. 18:10]. Now to the story line...

Think of some way to change the world -- and put it into action. That is the assignment for the 7th grade class of Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) and that is precisely what Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) does. Trevor develops a method of paying good deeds forward -- do a good deed for three people and they each do a good deed for three other people and so on. Sort of a fission principle. And some of them are uncontrolled fission and some target nuclei fail to capture the fission neutron.

The story opens four months into the future as police battle with a hostage situation. The bad guy tries to escape by ramming through the police perimeter barricade in an SUV and demolishes a news reporter's car. A nearby well-to-do lawyer, having heard of the pay-it-forward practice, made good one of his obligatory good deeds by giving the reporter his new Jaguar.

While most of Trevor's efforts to perform good deeds seem to be falling on selfishness, at least one of the attempts is fruitful. Trevor offers a homeless drug addict named Jerry (Jim Caviezel) a meal in their home and ends up living in their garage. Trevor's mother, Arlene (Helen Hunt), a recovering alcoholic (which was of course someone else's fault, namely her absent husband), is not at all happy with this homeless dude taking up residence in her garage until he repairs her broken pickup truck as one of his pay-it-forward good deeds. I wonder if Arlene waving a shotgun at Jerry would negate the "good" in the good deed by Jerry? Alas, as good and kind a man Jerry is, he falls back into his habit ... and so does Arlene a time or two.

Another good deed Trevor tries is to get Mr. Simonet, his school teacher romantically involved with mom. Mr. Simonet is not supportive of the Dan Cupid antics of Trevor. Arlene is reserved about it but open to the idea. While Arlene is working two jobs, being punctual as Mr. Simonet demands is not easy. Trevor helps his mother get ready during one of the frenzied preparations for a date with Mr. Simonet. Trevor even applies his mother's underarm deodorant. What!? Yes, Trevor lifts his mothers arms and swirls the deodorant in her armpits. Not that such a distasteful act is sinful, she had to be exposed for him to do it. And that she was. She had stripped to her underwear in front of Trevor. What a standard to display for an 11 year old son! What made stripping to underwear and parading it before children acceptable? Was it the parent/child pairs in underwear in TV commercials? Was it the plethora of other movies which show actors and actresses wearing only underwear? Each of these exposures is a pin buried in the couch, but that will make sense only if you read "Little Straight Pins."

Another "good deed" was performed when the lawyer's daughter was having an asthma attack in the emergency department of a hospital. Due to triage (treating the worst first), the staff was "ignoring" the girl until a stabbing victim forced the staff to give her oxygen. All this might be well and good, but this "good deed" was with intimidation by gunfire from the stabbing victim. Note that the good deed this lawyer did in giving the news reporter his Jaguar was fulfilling one of his obligatory three good deeds because of the "good deed" of the stabbing victim who also knew of the pay-it-forward principle -- all because of Trevor's innovation four months earlier and I suppose as a legacy to Trevor.

Pay It Forward is another picture painted with pretty paints but with a dirty brush. Additional examples of ignominy include jesting about killing a wife [Eph. 5:4], kissing/petting on school property, sexual touching as a tease [Mark 14:38], and drug involvement including drug induced stupor [2 Cor. 7:1]. Other examples include running away to fix problems [Is. 30:1], cohabitation before a child, positioning for suicide, and threats by an abusive father [Eph. 6:4]. A graphic and detailed story of a father setting his son on fire, lying to mom [Prov. 14:5], and arrogant, hateful talk by a child to his mother [Deut. 5:16] make this film another thief of childhood. A complete listing of the "PG" in "PG-13" is provided in the Findings/Scoring section below.


  • 1 Cor. 15:33 (KJV) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (NIV) Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
  • Luke 17:2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
  • Matt. 18:10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
  • Eph. 5:4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
  • Mark 14:38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.
  • 2 Cor. 7:1 Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
  • Is. 30:1 Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin:
  • Eph. 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
  • Prov. 14:5 A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.
  • Deut. 5:16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.


    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.

    FINDINGS / SCORING: Pay It Forward (2000) CAP Thermometers

    NOTE: Multiple occurrences of each item described below may be likely, definitely when plural.

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W):
  • hostage situation
  • jest about killing wife
  • reckless endangerment
  • sneaking knife past metal detectors in a public school
  • gunfire to intimidate
  • aiding and abetting
  • placing child in "adult" situations
  • positioning for suicide
  • detailed graphic story of a father setting his son on fire
  • abusive father/husband
  • threats by an abusive father
  • bully beating

    Impudence/Hate (I)(1):
  • 43 uses of the three/four letter word vocabulary
  • disrespect to teacher
  • lie to mom
  • many episodes of hateful and arrogant talk to mom and other fair authority
  • child expecting mother to measure up to his standards
  • threat of lying to get advantage
  • teacher portrayed as having as much authority over child as mother
  • lies about whereabouts
  • running away
  • portrayal of parent subordinate to child
  • lie to excuse meeting someone
  • son applying mother's deodorant
  • uses of foul slang for African Americans
  • bully assault

    Sex/Homosexuality (S):
  • kissing/petting between adolescents and on school property
  • dressing to maximize the female form and/or skin exposure
  • sexual touch to tease
  • lesbian mention
  • camera angle to force viewer on private parts
  • pedophile attempt to get young boy
  • undressing to underwear in front of young son
  • adult in underwear (before young boy)
  • self-touching
  • sexual comments, accusations
  • offer of heterosexual overnight stay for sex
  • cohabitation for sex with young boy encouraging it
  • masked nudity

    Drugs/Alcohol (D):
  • bar
  • drinking
  • drunkenness
  • booze
  • drug intoxication
  • alcoholism
  • smoking dope
  • smoking
  • buying booze for homeless drunk to obtain favor

    Offense to God (O)(2):
  • three uses of God's name in vain with the four letter expletive and 11 uses of it without the four letter expletive in various forms

    Murder/Suicide (M)(3):
  • schoolyard stabbing murder of an 11 year old boy by another boy

  • (1) As noted in CAP Special Report-001, "Investigation Area and Scoring Trend," of the six CAP Investigation Areas, Impudence/Hate was the strongest presence in all four movie classifications. It has a strong revelation about the entertainment media.

    (2) The use of the three/four letter word vocabulary without God's name in vain is incorporated into the Impudence/Hate Investigation Area. The use of God's name with or without the four letter expletive is incorporated into the Offense to God Investigation Area. There is no duplication.

    (3) Only portrayal of successful murder or suicide are incorporated into Murder/Suicide. Portrayal of attempts to commit murder or suicide and deaths by police action or war are incorporated into Wanton Violence/Crime.

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    Thomas A. Carder
    ChildCare Action Project: Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP)

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