Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Professor Jeremy Lipschultz

Second Advisor

Professor Michael Sherer

Third Advisor

Professor Jerold Simmons

Fourth Advisor

Professor Michael Krainak


A content analysis of the ten top-grossing films of 1993 was conducted examining the depiction of the family, the portrayal of violence, and the representation of religion. The results were compared with the "rhetorical vision" of popular motion pictures by film critic Michael Medved. Medved's 1992 Hollywood VS America attacked the entertainment industry for its anti­ family, pro-violence, and anti-religious messages in film. A thematic comparison indicated that, across the three categories, Medved's criticisms were supported about half of the time by the film sample. A deeper look at the results shows that Medved's criticisms regarding the depiction of the family and the portrayal of violence were largely unsupported by the sample. His observations about anti-family messages were not found in any of the seven films evaluated for family content. The pro-violence content was reported in two of the six films studied for violence. Medved's contention that religion is not represented in popular film was strongly supported, showing agreement in nine of the ten films in the sample. The thesis concludes that, in the areas of family and violence, his criticisms focus on the film content outside of their narrative context. That is, actual "anti family" and "pro-violence" issues are present in the films, but are treated in such a way as to reaffirm the "traditional values" of contemporary society. It is concluded that, overall, this reflection of accepted ideals is validated by the top-grossing box office status of the films. That popular motion picture content may be an indication of current social standards is discussed. Future areas of research and criticism within the context of social responsibility are considered.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Communication and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1995 Christopher Marsh.