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Entertainment Media Analysis Report
A service to our youth through you,
their parents and grandparents, in His name by His Word

White Oleander (2002), PG-13
Analysis Date: October 11, 2002
CAP Score: 21
CAP Influence Density: 2.06

MinMax: -88

White Oleander (2002) CAP Mini-thermometers

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NOTE: 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 completely objective to His Word and is the heart of the CAP Entertainment Media Analysis Model applied to this movie.


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

WHITE OLEANDER (PG-13) -- The MPAA has gone daft. There is no other explanation.

Production: Gaylord Films, John Wells Productions, Oleandor Productions, Warner Bros.
Distribution: Gaylord Pictures
Director(s): Peter Kosminsky
Producer(s): Stacy Cohen, E.K. Gaylord II, Kristin Harms, Hunt Lowry, Patrick Markey, Ilyse A. Reutlinger, Tracy Underwood, John Wells
Written by/Screenplay: Janet Fitch (novel), Mary Agnes Donoghue (screenplay)
Cinematography/Camera: Elliot Davis
Music: Thomas Newman
Film Editing: Chris Ridsdale
Casting: Ellen Lewis
Production Design: Donald Graham Burt
Art Direction: Anthony R. Stabley

A murderous mother teaches her teen daughter evil and bitter things and sexual immorality, even from prison.

Atop each online analysis report page I warn readers that these analysis reports may be spoilers. I am not going to be concerned about spoiling anything in this movie because of the vileness of it. This movie is an extremely well made and touching, symapthy-generating lie, depending heavily on the sensationalism of capitalizing on the deeds of a few corrupt people, ignoring the hard-working and caring men and women who are sincere, thus glamorizing the evil at the expense of the good. Indeed, calling that which is good evil [Isa. 5:20].

The MPAA has gone daft. There is no other explanation. This movie is NOT PG-13! It is mathematically equivalent in magnitude to hardcore R due to the plethora of lesser "pieces and parts." Not in boldness of individual examples of ignominy as is typical of most R-rated movies but in the sheer volume of issues of abuse of morality and decency. Further, this movie can and probably will fortify and strengthen any barriers the viewer already has against matters of Jesus , fostercare and sexual purity. And if the viewer has no perception or weak perceptions of such issues, this movie will probably build a false foundation or corrupt a foundation under development. The only understanding many youth have about Jesus , fostercare and sexual issues comes from entertainment anyway. And having been a foster/adoptive parent providing 24-7 care to 26 kids over 11 years and having been a Christian for much longer, I can give you credible truth that this movie corrupts reality for the sake of entertainment drama and sensationalism. White Oleander is as poisonous to the understanding of righteous reality as the White Oleander is to humans. Maybe there is intended irony to the quintessential evil one in this movie being a grower of White Oleanders.

Fifteen year old Astrid Magnussen (Alison Lohman in an outstanding performance of great versatility) is living with her mother ... again. Shortly after Astrid's birth her mother, Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer who was, as were all other characters, carried by Lohman) preferred all-day sex over caring for an infant. One day some years later, as unmarried Ingrid drove to her latest lover's house she made Astrid wait in the car as Ingrid ostensibly went into the man's house for sex. At least that is what Astrid was made to believe. That is only one of a plethora of examples of this mother teaching her daughter sexual immorality [Luke 17:2]. Only one of many. And sexual immorality is not the only evil Ingrid taught Astrid.

With her mother convicted of murder [Exod. 20:13], Astrid is cast adrift in the sea of child protective services -- cast into the fostercare system. The first of the fostercare providers Astrid encounters is loud-mouthed, ex-stripper, exhibitionist, crack-shot, drunk, unmarried "Christian" Starr (Robin Wright Penn) who lives with Ray (Cole Hauser), a married man who develops a sexual interest in Astrid. Starr has a daughter, Carolee (Liz Stauber) a little older than Astrid who announces the only thing their preacher is interested in is Starr's posterior. A delightful family indeed in Starr and her daughter. Starr is a Bible-quoting, born-again Christian. The first thing she asks Astrid in a gleeful and welcoming manner is "Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Savior?" Starr is one of the purest examples of the conditional Christian - acting Christian only when acting Christian does not get in the way. Starr is quick with a verse, quick with the temper and as quick with a gun. She is jealous, ill-tempered, vile, violent, mean, vengeful and vulgar. Starr slaps Carolee around until Carolee threatens her life. When Starr sees Ray's sexual interest in Astrid, Starr shoots her amid a barrage of vulgar and hateful verbal attacks on both Ray and Astrid [Matt. 18:10]. A fine example of a Christian woman indeed. This subplot in White Oleander is cynematic cyanide to the perception of the Christian. A favorite technique of many modern filmmakers. A lie.

And Penn's performance was not the only corruption of matters of faith and God. Pfeiffer adds her two bits, too. "If there is a God He sure ain't worth praying to. I raised you, not a bunch of Bible-thumpin' trailer trash. I raised you to think for yourself." "If thinking for yourself is evil, every artist is evil. [Note: Art is not sin. Sin is not art. Art becomes sin when it uses sin.] Is that what you believe now that you've been brainwashed in the Blood of the Lamb?" So, in the view of the script writers, Christians are apparently incapable of thinking for ourselves. I wonder if they know how it takes thinking for ourselves to accept Christian from the myriad of false "religions" after us to follow them which, like this movie, speak of many self-serving strange teachings in fine-sounding argumentation and smooth talk to draw people away from Christ. [Col. 2:4, Acts 20:30, Rom. 16:17 - 18, Hebr. 13:9]

The second foster family Astrid encounters is a well-to-do married couple. The husband is Mark Richards (Noah Wyle), a successful entertainment mogul of some kind. His wife is Claire (Renée Zellweger), portrayed as a weak and insecure "sponge" to Mark. Mark is unfaithful to Claire and leaves her while Astrid is soaking it all up. Astrid also has to soak up Claire's suicide by overdose [Exod. 20:13]. Another fine step in Astrid's journey through adolescence caused by her mother's selfishness which no adolescent should have to make.

The third fostercare provider Astrid must deal with is a Russian American clothes scavenger with two daughters, one pregnant. The influence of these folks is coy and deceitful practices. And goth.

After the third fostercare failure in a row, Astrid submits to group home and learns prison-quality ethics which is yet another issue of manufactured entertainment sensationalism. One of which is how to counter-threaten. After being beaten by one of the "inmate" girls Astrid threatens the girl in her sleep with a knife to her throat threatening to kill her if the girl ever touches her again. Now Astrid has become a well-rounded woman of the world and ends up living with one of the guys she met at the group home. All because of her mother's selfishness.

If you try to use White Oleander as an aide in teaching values and morality to your children, you have a hard road ahead. There are a couple examples of strength and virtue, but just a couple. For example, though Astrid agreed to lie to the courts about her mother's accountability in the murder of her mother's paramour, Ingrid did not let her lawyer call Astrid to the stand and took the full punishment for her crime. Ingrid "voluntarily" took the sentence that could have been avoided if Astrid had lied. In another example of positive performance, to Ingrid's teachings of bitterness and opportunistic self-protectiveness Astrid discovered "Those people (Christians) are not the enemy, mother. We are. They don't hurt us. We hurt them." The film also spends a great deal of energy in portraying how our decisions can and do affect the lives of others., whether for good or ill.

There is much more to the vileness of this film but enough is enough. My words are not good enough to accurately describe the unsettling darkness of this film. Any entertainment value or redemption value of this film is up to you if you decide that which we reveal about it is acceptable. I applaud Lohman's performance and marvel at her acting genius but wish she hadn't. I wish she had not given this performance for her own sake and for the sake of your daughters who watch this film who will surely be emboldened by it, whether acted on or not.

In addition to that which is discussed so far, White Oleander brings at least 18 uses of the three/four letter word vocabulary with a teen speaking one of them [Col. 3:8, Titus 2:6-8], 13 uses of God's name in vain (three with the four letter expletive) [Deut. 5:11] and one use of the most foul of the foul words. I will emphasize that this film brings to you example after example of sexual immorality . [Rev. 21:8, Gal. 5:19] Through the only example of nudity is thong underwear on a woman, there are many other examples of immorality such as exposing teen girls in their very brief underwear, sexual comments and talk, sounds of intercourse and ghosting of teenage female anatomy through thin clothing. The rather lengthy listing in the Findings/Scoring section (longer than that for many R-rated movies) will provide all that was noted.


If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ]. 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.

  • Isa. 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
  • 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.
  • Col. 2:4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.
  • Acts 20:30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. [To draw people after them, the people have to be drawn away from something -- from Jesus.]
  • Rom. 16:17 - 18 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned [things of faith, righteousness, Jesus]. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive [and uninformed] people.
  • Hebr. 13:9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace [by God's Word and love], not by ceremonial foods [e.g., entertainment ignominy], which are of no value to those who eat them.
  • Exod. 20:13 You shall not murder. [Regarding suicide, it is murder of the self.]
  • Col. 3:8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
  • Titus 2:6-8 Similarly, encourage the young men [and women] to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
  • Deut. 5:11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain [shav' {shawv}: emptiness, nothingness, vanity]: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
  • Rev. 21:8 But the [unforgiven] fearful [deilos {di-los'}; timid, cowardly], and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
  • Gal. 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;

    *******Food for Daily Thought*******
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 (KJV) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (NIV) Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
  • Jude 4 For certain men* whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change [warp, distort, falsely represent] the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto [or for] one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto [or for] me.
  • Luke 17:2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. [cause by teaching or example]
  • Ps. 119:133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.


    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.

    White Oleander (2002) CAP Thermometers

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W):
  • knifings, repeatedly
  • breaking and entering
  • vandalism
  • attempted gunfire murder of a foster daughter
  • fighting, repeatedly
  • knife to throat
  • drawing of knife assault
  • Kevorkian art
  • cruelty, repeatedly
  • gunfire injury to a child
  • flashes of murder activities

    Impudence/Hate (I)(1):
  • 18 uses of the 3/4 letter word vocabulary, once by a teen
  • one use of the most foul of the foul words
  • inviting child to take risks (setting on a high ledge with no protection)
  • order to lie
  • lies, repeatedly
  • sneaking out
  • talk of hatred of parents
  • rationalizing evil behavior
  • teaching child to disbelieve
  • unrighteous scolding
  • adolescent screaming hatred at mother plus additional hate talk to mother, repeatedly
  • mother/daughter physical fight
  • marital argumentation with hurtful talk
  • adult dependency on a child
  • mother teaching daughter bitterness and hatred, repeatedly
  • "You tell me the truth (about my past). I'll lie for you in court."
  • mother speaking arrogantly to daughter of mother's sexually immoral past
  • wanting sex all day rather than care for infant daughter
  • large tattoo (on teen)

    Sex/Homosexuality (S):
  • camera angle to focus viewer on private parts
  • cohabitation for sex and in the presence of a teen girl, repeatedly
  • much talk of sexually immoral behavior with daughter, repeatedly
  • seductive mannerisms of mother while daughter watches
  • admitting with pride the sexual immorality of a mother to her daughter
  • forcing daughter to wait in car while mom has sex
  • dressing to maximize the female form and/or skin exposure, repeatedly
  • sounds of immoral intercourse as teen girl hears them
  • sex talk, comments, innuendo
  • rear female nudity (thong underwear), repeatedly
  • teens in brief underwear
  • adult teaching teens sexual immorality, repeatedly
  • foster father showing sexual interest in teen foster daughter
  • foster father amorously touching teen foster daughter
  • cartoon female rear nudity
  • ghosting of teen female anatomy through thin clothing, repeatedly
  • teen in underwear
  • invitation to cohabitate
  • speaking of sexually immoral behavior as significant as maybe a slight sniffle
  • vulgar drawing son mail to a teen girl from a teen boy
  • cohabitation by teens - 2 years and going

    Drugs/Alcohol (D):
  • rationalizing illegal drug use
  • smoking, repeatedly
  • diner drinking
  • booze
  • drunkenness to soothe pain
  • teen drinking
  • teen drinking party
  • teen smoking, repeatedly
  • illegal drug reference

    Offense to God (O)(2):
  • much mockery of faith and Christ, repeatedly
  • belittlement of Salvation
  • counterfeiting of Scriptures to teach hate of Jesus
  • "Christians are the enemy"
  • thinking for yourself means nonChristian
  • using Jesus as a tool to manipulate
  • astrology
  • strange teachings - "pyramid-ology"
  • goth, repeatedly

    Murder/Suicide (M)(3):
  • murder, unseen
  • suicide

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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 plot does not excuse the sinful behavior of either the one who is drawing pleasure or example 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.

    "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 nearly seven 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.

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    (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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