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The Hypocrisy of the Entertainment Industry

Item: Netflix has decided to “ban smoking from all original content rated TV-14 or PG-13 and below.”

The media giant known for its risqué content will continue to present shows filled with violence, crime, sexual promiscuity, drug addiction, excessive consumption of alcohol, murder, theft, fraud, dishonesty, and occult practices. But it is good to see that Netflix wants to do the right thing and its shows won’t encourage young people to smoke.

Item: Some theatres have cancelled showings of the movie Unplanned, although it will still be screened by more than 24 theatres in Canada starting this weekend.

The showing of this movie has attracted considerable attention in the media, almost all of it negative. In this coverage, this movie has almost universally been labelled “controversial.” It is hard to remember any other movie that the media have called “controversial.” “Controversial” is a buzz word used by the media as a covert way of saying, “We don’t agree with it.”

The Canadian news media have generally shown their bias not only by referring to the movie as “controversial” but also by describing it as being “anti-abortion.” The media are careful to call other groups by their preferred labels, but the media insist on calling “pro-life” groups “anti-abortion” groups. The bias is evident in that they refer to groups such as Planned Parenthood as “pro-choice” groups rather than “pro-abortion” groups. Furthermore, the news coverage has not focused on the film itself nor the human story behind it, as would happen with other movies. Rather, the news coverage has been focused on the opposition to the movie and criticisms by groups such as Planned Parenthood.

When criticized for offering movies filled with sex and violence, for years movie makers and movie distributors have routinely said that they do not censor movies and are only giving people what they want. Yet they are often reluctant to show “Christian” movies and “controversial” movies such as Unplanned even though theatres are often “packed” when they do show such movies and empty when they show some of the more extremely violent and pornographic movies. In fact, the theatres often agree to show such movies only after an intense lobbying effort, such as occurred before they agreed to show Unplanned. And they certainly don’t waste much money advertising such movies as they do with other movies.

Many of the news reports have quoted a news release from the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) calling Unplanned “a dangerous piece of anti-abortion propaganda.”

Of course, movies such as Brokeback Mountain and Milk would never be called “propaganda” for homosexuality. And Million Dollar Baby would not be called “propaganda” for assisted suicide. As with “controversial,” calling something “propaganda” just means “I personally don’t agree with it.”

The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada “fears the movie could incite fanatics to commit acts of harassment or violence against clinics or doctors.” This is ironic considering that the Salmar Theatre in Salmon Arm, BC, cancelled its plans to show the movie after violent threats were made against theatre staff and their families. The Movie Mill in Lethbridge, Alberta, is showing the movie but has taken the precaution of hiring extra security. Which side is actually most violent?

Planned Parenthood also says that the movie contains “vicious falsehoods” and “has nothing to do with reality.” This is even though the movie is based on a true story, a memoir of Abby Johnson, a Planned Parenthood worker who became a convinced pro-life advocate. “Based on” is a common Hollywood claim for many movies whose veracity is very questionable but rarely questioned. There is clearly a double standard at work.

ARCC executive director Joyce Arthur also noted that the film’s attempt to challenge abortion rights is “a non-starter in Canada, where women and transgender people have a Charter right to abortion based on their rights to bodily autonomy and equality.” Speaking of falsehoods, this is not technically true. When it struck down Canada’s last abortion law, the Supreme Court of Canada encouraged the government to enact an amended law; as far as I know, it has never declared that there is an unfettered “right” to abortion.

To their credit, the theatre chains Cineplex and Landmark have agreed to show Unplanned and to resist the calls to ban it—although only for a single week in a very few theatres. Furthermore, agreeing to show a movie is not the same thing as ardently promoting a movie, as they might do for “controversial” movies on the other side of the morality spectrum.

Unplanned reveals as much about the hypocrisy of the entertainment industry and the bias of mainstream news media as it does about abortion.

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