Friday Five: Bob Waliszewski

April 27, 2012

If you’re a concerned mom or dad, then certainly you’ve made good use of Plugged-In Online. It’s a terrific resource from Focus on the Family featuring detailed and up to date entertainment reviews. Today I have the privilege of interviewing Bob Waliszewski, Plugged In director. Waliszewski reaches a large radio audience weekly with his syndicated “Plugged In Movie Reviews.”

Waliszewski has been interviewed extensively by media outlets such as CNN, CNBC, Daystar Television, MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country,” Fox News Radio Network’s “The Alan Colmes Show,” the Associated Press, Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun-Times and The New York Times in which he most often tackles the controversial entertainment issues that confront families. He was also featured on CBN’s 700 Club, FamilyNet’s At Home Live!, Focus on the Family’s Mind over Media video and Shine TV New Zealand. Waliszewski regularly speaks to teens and parents on popular culture, and was called to testify before a subcommittee of California legislators on the subject of violent lyrics.

Waliszewski has written articles for several Focus on the Family publications (Focus on the Family, Citizen, LifeWise and Breakaway). In May 1997, Waliszewski was presented with an Evangelical Press Association “Higher Goals” award for an article on gangs written for Teachers in Focus magazine. Waliszewski co-authored Chart Watch, a book that includes more than 400 album reviews from a biblical perspective, and chapters on media discernment, and Plugged In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids with Love, Not War.

Today, Bob was kind enough to stop by and answer questions for the Friday Five:

Plugged in Online has been offering entertainment reviews since 1999. What good and bad trends have you seen in the entertainment culture since then? 

The department was actually launched in 1991, and although the website wasn’t yet up and running, in some sense (but to a lesser degree) we started offering entertainment reviews even then. The most significant trend I’ve noticed is what I call “the splitting of the pendulum.” What I mean by that is that in the 20-plus years I’ve worked here (and let’s just highlight one form of entertainment—movies), I’ve never seen more positive films coming out as I have in the last few years. When I started here, we were not seeing “Courageous” and “Fireproof” and “October Baby” shaking things up at the Box Office. And we certainly weren’t seeing the likes of “The Passion of the Christ” with its $361,000,000 domestically. Nor were we seeing in significant numbers positive (albeit not faith-based) films like “Dolphin Tale,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” and “Up.”

However, the pendulum has swung to the other extreme at the same time – films like the “Saw” franchise, “The Kids are Alright” (and getting nominated for best picture?!), “Sex and the City,” “The American,” “American Reunion,” etc. What’s more, the PG-13 rating has crept so far that one can never know if a film is really in R-rated territory such as “Yes Man,” “Easy A,” “The Back-Up Plan,” “Land of the Lost” and “Love Guru” or if it’s truly a PG-13 like a “Blindside.”  I might also say I like the trend I’m seeing corporately with Wal-Mart/P&G – companies spending their own money to make family-friendly films (i.e., “Secrets of the Mountain”).

Christians have always had an uneasy relationship with the entertainment industry. What advice do you give believers in both engaging and resisting? 

Simply seek out what Jesus would do and watch and do accordingly. It’s really not all that difficult. A bit gray sometimes, but with prayer and a discerning mind set, still possible. If need be, think of it in more modern terms. Picture Jesus walking the planet today with his 12 disciples. And now John or Bartholomew approaches Jesus and asks him in the present, “Jesus, in the movie theater this weekend, the film ____ opens. Can we load the van up and all go see it this weekend?” What would be His response?

You advocate parents have a filter for their children’s viewing habits, but good Christians often disagree on where the lines should be drawn–rating system, vulgarity, violence, sex. What do you advocate? 

Hebrews 1:9 says that Jesus hated wickedness. Notice it doesn’t say He tolerated it. Christians today often think they’re doing right by being tolerant of entertainment that glamorizes the very things He went to the cross to pay the penalty for. I believe it would serve us well to become better “haters,” as Jesus was excellent at it. If we hate sinful things, we’d certainly avoid them, much the same as we avoid lima beans in the salad bar line if we hate ‘em (which I do!).

The last decade has seen an increase the production of Christian films and video games. Is the church in the midst of an artistic renaissance of sorts? 

Time will tell. But as I mentioned above, it is an encouraging period in which we’re living.

If you could give one piece of advice to an emerging Christian filmmaker, musician, gamer, or artist, what would you say? 

Don’t compromise morally. Take the high road when it comes to integrity. Seek Him first and all these “things” will be added unto you. Then I’d add, don’t think cheesy and subpar are acceptable just because it’s “Christian.”