Blockbuster shift to more sex, violence reported by HomeLife

by Heather Price Lawrence, posted Thursday, May 06, 1999 (20 years ago)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--With more than 4,000 stores nationwide, Blockbuster Video boasts it's larger than its next 550 competitors combined, and the company's success is largely based on its reputation for family friendly video-rental policies.

But all that has changed, reports the June 1999 issue of HomeLife, the family magazine of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. For example, among its 4,000-plus video titles, Blockbuster features more than 70 Playboy and Penthouse videos. In addition, Blockbuster has created an in-house 17+ rating that identifies videos containing sexually explicit material closer to X-rated than R-rated. The 17+ rating, which differs from the NC-17 rating mandated by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), is labeled on videos with themes including lesbian sex and sexual bondage.

"It's our opinion that the 17+ rating soft-pedals videos that should be X-rated," said Jon Kent Walker, editor in chief of HomeLife magazine. "It looks a lot better to have a bunch of 17+ videos listed on your inventory than X-rated or NC-17.

"We want parents to also be aware that Blockbuster is providing two versions of many movies, one cut and one uncut," Walker continued. "The uncut versions include explicit scenes originally edited by movie companies in order to avoid a harsher MPAA rating. Now they're available uncut in your local Blockbuster store."

The upcoming HomeLife article, written by youth culture specialist Bob DeMoss, cites an abundance of sexually violent "slasher" films. In one Blockbuster outlet, DeMoss found more than 750 videos of this genre, several of which include disturbingly graphic scenes, including human sacrifice.

"They've added the ‘Faces of Death’ and ‘Death Faces’ to their collection of horror titles," DeMoss writes. "These are some of the most irresponsible videos ever marketed because they feature scenes of actual death. This is accomplished by either blowing up an animal, close-ups of accident victims, or even images of a person dying in an electric chair."

Walker added, "We're all grappling with violence in our schools, and yet the largest video rental company in the country is expanding its inventory of graphically violent films. It just doesn't make sense. The Blockbuster outlet in my community recently added two extra rows of violent horror films."

The article also notes Blockbuster has reversed itself on several controversial titles it previously refused to carry, such as "The Last Temptation of Christ."

Based on the thousands of violent and sexually explicit titles Blockbuster provides, the HomeLife article encourages Christian parents to seriously consider deleting the word "not" from Blockbuster's well-known ad campaign: "Why not make it a Blockbuster night?"

DeMoss is president of Entertainment Today in Franklin, Tenn., and author of "Learn to Discern."

Lawrence is a freelance writer now living in Uruguay.

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