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Dove, the mark of kinder, gentler videos

Dick Rolfe sympathizes with parents who search video stores for movies without blood-spattering violence, four-letter words or sex scenes that will leave them red-faced in front of their wide-eyed 6-year-olds.

"Parents don't want to white-knuckle the video control every time they rent a video and bring it home to watch with the family," Rolfe said.

So, nearly three years ago he launched the nonprofit Dove Foundation, to publish a list of videos "appropriate for family viewing."

"Pretty soon, it became a real sought-after list. People began taking the list into their local video stores and then we started getting calls from video store owners asking for the lists, too," Rolfe said.

Dove won national attention in 1992, when it helped persuade McDonald's to drop its promotion of the PG-13-rated Batman Returns because of the movie's violence.

Today, about 600 video outlets in 35 states and Canada buy blue-and-white Dove stickers and slap them on about 1,000 videos on Dove's list. That's nearly four times the 161 stores in the program at the start of 1993, but less than 1 percent of some 70,000 video outlets nationwide.

Rolfe said that major studios aren't filling the demand for family movies, and parents don't really know what to expect when they rent a video rated PG or PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Blockbuster Video spokesman Wally Knief said that his company has been in touch with the Dove Foundation since 1991, but have not reached an agreement with the foundation to carry the Dove seal.

In a Times survey of area video store chains, only Sun Coast Video carried movies bearing the seal. Others said they have not yet been contacted, but expressed interest in the Dove labels.

A single flash of frontal nudity or even just one swear word is enough to get a thumbs down from Dove's national network of about 15 volunteer reviewers.

Sleepless in Seattle squeaked through, even though there were reservations about Meg Ryan's character having an affair with a boyfriend.

"And yet we approved it because the affair was never glorified or recommended _ and in the end she falls in love with the guy she didn't have the affair with," said Rolfe, who has the final say.

"When we put a Dove seal on a movie, all we're saying is that this movie is appropriate for family viewing. When we don't, we're not necessarily saying it's a bad movie or an evil movie _ just that it's probably not a good movie to share with your 6-year-old."

Dove charges video stores $100 annually to join, giving them updated video lists, stickers and signs. For $19 a year, individuals get lists updated quarterly and a newsletter. The group also receives grants and individual donations.

Some of Dove's detractors say the organization is nothing but a smokescreen for pro-censorship religious conservative groups.

"Their goal seems to be to decide what Americans ought to see or not see, and we don't believe there should be any self-appointed or self-anointed group to make such decisions on the part of individuals or families," said Vans Stevenson, spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America.

Some examples of approximately 1,000 movies and videos approved by Dove Foundation:

Beethoven, Beethoven's 2nd, Chariots of Fire (12 years and up), Dennis the Menace, Free Willy, Groundhog Day (12 years and up), Home Alone (12 years and up), Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (12 years and up), Life with Mikey (12 years and up), The Muppet Christmas Carol, My Girl (12 years and up), The Princess Bride, Rear Window (12 years and up), Rookie of the Year (12 years and up), The Secret Garden (12 years and up), Sister Act (12 years and up), Star Wars.

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