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Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture (Documentary Review)

Last Updated: September 8, 2021

Luke Gilkerson
Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Your Brain on Porn and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

“If I could control the medium of the American motion picture, I would need nothing else to convert the entire world to consumerism.” – Joseph Stalin

When I first met Phillip Telfer, he struck me as humble man with a larger-than-life mission: taking on the monster of media consumption. He handed me a copy of his film Captivated (ironic, I thought, using media to talk about media consumption). I popped it in my DVD player and prepared myself for the usual humdrum about sex and violence on TV.

What I got was 100 minutes of some of the best commentary on media diet I’ve ever heard.


Captivated is about media consumption, content, and captivity. In the opening sequence Telfer asks some poignant questions.

  • In a world surrounded by screens, have we entered a techno-utopia or a virtual prison?
  • Should we be celebrating unreservedly or should we be cautious and skeptical?
  • Has online connectivity drawn us closer to one another or made us more disjointed?
  • Has it brought us nearer to God, or have we built a Tower of Media Babel?

Cameras follow Telfer as he interviews some of today’s leading media experts and commentators. Added to these expert witnesses are the stories of young adults and families who have taken some radical steps to distance themselves from media.

These interviews force viewers to ask the hard questions about how media is shaping their lives, their character, their values, and their priorities.

Following in the steps of men like Neil Postman, Telfer asks modern media consumers: Are we amusing ourselves to death? As a sort of visual allusion, cameras capture Telfer filling his plate at a buffet. Telfer asks, how is our media diet impacting us?

  • Consumed: Too Much Media – “All of the technological devices that have emerged in the last 100 years have resulted in an all-you-can-eat media buffet, and over the years we have been conditioned to pile more and more on our plates.”
  • Content: Toxic Media –  “The subject of media consumption is a big enough topic on its own, but you can’t stop there. What if much of the media we consumed was unhealthy, or even worse, was found to be toxic? It’s not just how much we are consuming, but also the content.”
  • Captivated: Idols in Media – “When talking about the content in media, many people are rightfully concerned about morality and decency, but those are not the only concerns. Mass media is one of the most effective ways to disseminate philosophies and false worldviews.”

About Phillip Telfer

Telfer is a bit of a nomad. He got his start in ministry reaching our to inner-city kids in Chicago using his skills as a freestyle BMX rider to connect with the unchurched. He then moved to music ministry, and then pastoral ministry.

Through these experiences he came to believe that a lack of media discernment was one of the biggest stumbling blocks to discipleship. He now travels across the country in his RV, taking along his wife and four kids, speaking at conferences and churches on behalf of his non-profit ministry, Media Talk 101.

The Experts

Through expert interviews some scary stats are presented:

  • Children spend 53 hours per week on average of screen time.
  • By the time kids graduate high school, they will have spent 18,000 to 22,000 watching TV.
  • Teens send an average of 3,339 text messages per month.
  • 10% of young people are addicted to video games.

These expert voices, I believe, are the highlight of the documentary. They present a unified voice of media specialists who are concerned about how media is captivating us.

Secular Authors and Researchers

  • Maggie Jackson (Journalist and author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age)
  • Mark Bauerlein (Professor of English at Emory University and author of The Dumbest Generation)
  • Dr. David Walsh (Speaker and Author of Smart Parenting, Smarter Kids)
  • Dimitri Christakis, MD (Director of Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Foundation)
  • Melissa Henson (Director of Communication and Public Education at Parent’s Television Council)
  • Tim Winter (President of Parent’s Television Council)
  • Dick Rolfe (Co-founder and CEO of The Dove Foundation)
  • Phil Chalmers (Speaker and author of Inside the Mind of a Teen Killer)

Para-Church Ministry Leaders

  • Ray Comfort (Founder and President of Living Waters)
  • KP Yohannan (Founder and President of Gospel for Asia)
  • Dr. Jeff Myers (President of Summit Ministries)
  • Major Phil Willis (Army Chaplain and Founder and President of Be Strong Ministries)
  • Al Menconi (Author, Speaker)
  • Trace Embry (Founder and Director of Shepherd’s Hill Academy and host of the radio program License to Parent)
  • Kerby Anderson (National Director of Probe Ministries)
  • Kevin Swanson (Director of Generations with Vision)

Christian Media Specialists

  • Bob Waliszewski (Director of Focus on the Family’s Plugged In department)
  • Dr. David Murray (Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary)
  • Dr. Ted Baehr (Founder and Director of MOVIEGUIDE)

Pastors and Church Leaders

  • Raul Ries (Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Golden Springs)
  • Joe Schimmel (Pastor of Blessed Hope Chapel, Simi Valley, CA)

Get this DVD

Bottom line: Your church should get this documentary. Your family should get this documentary. Your teens should watch this documentary. It will scare you, challenge you, depress you, and encourage you.

You may not walk away wanting to completely eschew TV, movies, and the Internet, but you will mostly definitely walk away believing that something drastic must be done in the life of a modern disciple when it comes to media consumption.

  • Comments on: Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture (Documentary Review)
    1. sapphire

      WOW.. it seems like we traded the 2nd hand smoke, and the horrible smog in the air for dirty airWAVES. Years ago, boomer children were able to ‘gooutsideandplay’ after chores when mom was smoking with her rollers in the hair. Kids werent affected to the 2nd hand smoke i believe as these modern kids are affected by these modern airWAVES. Yes our air is MUCH CLEANER today, but alas, kids are NOT OUTSIDE (i also dont believe the sun is as bad as they seem; kids are not getting vitamin D as much) in it unless they are in sports, etc.

    2. sapphire

      When TV was the norm, that was all there was unless the radio and movies (they werent on ALL NIGHT LONG, Remember the ‘signoff song ‘Star Spangled Banner’ at 1:30AM). I believe when they created the SONY WALKMAN, thats when media became more ‘selfish’–no one knew what you were listening to.That was 30+ years ago, It’s good also when adults and kids do things together like play board games instead of video games—i NEVER liked vid games, because what they do to BOYS. I notice when girls play, they talk to each other instead of competing. Unfortunantly, today, the cellphones are changing all of that and some teens who are addicted to the txt msgs will do that AND DRIVE– thats similar to drinking & driving, especially to a teen. I believe they should raise the age of driving to age 18 unless of extinuating circumstances

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