For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Captivated DVD - TOS Review

Recently we received a DVD from Media Talk 101, whose purpose is to awaken our society about the dangers of technology and finding from its influences. I received the Movie Captivated DVD for review.

I was originally excited to receive this DVD, since, just like many parents, I have come to recognize and realize that technology is taking over our lives and the lives of our children, and that we need to beware. On top of that, my husband is studying the topic of  Media ecology  for the purpose of a doctoral paper (doctor of ministry), and we thought this
might be interesting and informative to watch.

Although, there were lots of thing that I think the DVD rightly pointed out, there were a few points that need careful consideration and with which we were disappointed (and from my husband point of view - who happenned to have read some of the research books mentionned -were disturbing ).

The details:

Audience: This is designed for adult but approved for all ages.
Price: $16.95

The 107-minute long movie/documentary was divided into 4 sections:
  • Media:Consumption which focused on statistics, and history.
  • Media Content: which focused on what media promotes and its influence.
  • Captivated, which focused on how media reflects and are medium for ideas, ideologies and philosophies.
  • Battleground which showed how the battleground is in the mind and how the enemy (the devil and the world) is woven within the very fabric of our lives and society, and that media is one of its means of influence.
  • Freedom which focuses on ways we could get out of this by replacement of media time with more godly, family-oriented and profitable activities.
The DVD also contains 9 extended interviews and a note from the producer in the extra bonus features.

First of all, let's look at the good things about this movie:
  • The movie is full of snippets of interviews from authors and researchers (Christian and secular), parents, and youth. There is a list of participants on their webpage.
  • Lots of pointed quotes and famous sayings from historical people as well as Scripture passages.
  • Full of personal testimonies.
  • Information on how the brain works and effects of media on the brain.
  • Shocking, sobering and scary statistics.

The main emphasis of Captivated, as it jumped at me watching it, is to bring to the fore the damages of the technological age in the lives of people, especially, the young ones.

A few of the things they point out are as following:
  • Kids' brains are being tricked to have a sense of accomplishment without actually doing anything substantial and rewarding.
  • Teenagers screen out parents and adults from their lives.
  • The trivia of youth is amplified.
  • It creates a peer controlled and moderated world and culture
  • It gives meaning to the word 'amuse' (as in a=no and muse=think)
  • The danger it presents to kids' attention span, social, writing and talking skills.
  • The danger on relationships and the type of connections young people have now, which is more in snippets.
  • The physiological effects
  • The wedge that it creates between parents and kids and one another in society.

My opinion:

I thought the DVD did a good job in showing how the secular media has an agenda and showing the evolution of the world of technology from the telegraph, to what we have now. Also, it pointed out how the world of media went from being concerned about decency to one that seeks to push the envelop more and more in an attempt to outdo one another. It is no longer about the public but about the business.

Despite all of this I am reluctant to recommend this DVD because of the following aspects of the DVD that were somewhat concerning:.
  • The movie seems one-sided and too simplistic. It lacked the nuanced critique that such a topic deserves. Its analysis of the effects of media did not go deep enough. It did not adequately point out that not all media is evil. The only nuanced part was in the bonus features that one might or might not get to watch. This is disappointing, especially since the producer clearly states (in his bonus feature personal interview) that he is not anti-media but wishes for more discernment from people. This did not come out as strongly in the movie itself.
  • The movie had a feel of scare tactic which potentially could lead to legalistic behavior. After watching the movie I was more concerned about what media is doing to my kids (and myself) than my need to live a life that glorifies God. Fear is not a very good motivation for change. It did not go deep enough in search of the real problem. it failed to deal with our sin problem and heart affections, which leads to replacing one addiction with another. Even if that other addiction is more godly we are still dealing with idolatry.
  • There was not enough of the Gospel. 80% of the movie was "media is bad" and 20% about what we should do and about God's good news and power in the Gospel.
  • The movie leaves you with the impression that you need to create a Christian ghetto.
  • There was not enough of positive encouragement besides unplugging.
  • The tactic was flawed because it sounded more like propaganda, which we (rightly) accuse the unbeliever of doing. We, as christians, should show a better way of analysing deep issues such as these. This is not just a problem for Christians.
  • It fell short of providing critical tools to engage media. David Murray seemed to be the only one going that route and I appreciated what he said.
The extended videos allowed for a better understanding of the points some of the interviewees wished to make. Unfortunately, a lot of what is being said in these extended videos, was somewhat undermined by the video itself, such as technology not being evil or bad, and yet in the movie itself they promote and strongly encourage disengagement and/or total unplugging, instead of ways in which we could think about its use biblically and in helpful ways.

 The one interview that stood out to me was the one of David Murray as he really offered a balanced view of technology and a gospel-centered approach and tactic to engage technology, as well as how to view its place in society. This is precisely what I found was missing from the overall message of the movie itself. The challenge is not to have a drastic behavioural change but thoughtful, biblical engagement, and critical use of technology. He rightly points to the problem of sin and how we tend to misuse God's good gifts. I love the term he used of "disciplined discernment" which he attributes to Tim Challies. I wish the movie focused more on that as opposed to the more negative bent it carried.

I empathize with the overall message of the DVD about being aware that too much media is not good for you and especially as Christians, when there are better things that one could be doing with his time. However, my husband and I strongly believe that as Christians we need to be careful to communicate truth reasonably (i.e with good logic and well-crafted arguments), instead of relying on an appeal to emotions. Failing in this area can have disatrous consequences.

Overall, this DVD might be helpful for people who have denied the negative effects of technology, in that it might serve as a wake up call, given its strong consequentialist overtone. However, I am afraid it might just preach to the choir and be shoved off by those we try to reach because of its unbalanced overall approach. In our case, we have been aware of these dangers and have been keeping an eye on them. We do not compromise family meal times, have one TV for the whole house, control amount and content, etc. This DVD did not bring much to the table of how to be more discerning, especially as we recognize that technological advancement will carry on with or without us. Again the key is critical, disciplined discernment as well as ordered affections, and these themes were touched on almost as an add-on.

I guess I would say the DVD addresses the ways in which, and the reasons why media can be dangerous, but did little to address the how we can engage and glorify God with it (beside may be doing documentaries like these).

My only advice is if you get this DVD, make sure you listen to David Murray's full interview, and reflect on it, as it really spells out the way we ought to think about technology, which message I found was missing from the DVD as a whole.

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