Friday, February 09, 2007

Movies of "Faith" and the Critics

While out at lunch today, I purchased our local newspaper and found an article about the increasing number of Christian-themed films entering the market. While the article was largely positive, they had to throw an obligatory reference to critics. Specifically, the unnamed critics complain that the new crop of films "don't deal with the controversial sides of the religion."

Okay, I must be missing something here. I have been in journalism much of my adult life. I have also been a fan of film much of my entire life, preferring the Golden Age classics. I have never confused the two. Please tell me why it is mandatory for a Christian-themed film to include swipes from critics, controversies from church history, or any other negative aspect they can dream up?

The films in question are not documentaries. Documentaries have a journalistic purpose. These films do not. They are entertainment. They are art. They are supposed to tell a story. Unlike a news article or documentary, they don't have to be "fair and balanced," taking in all opposing views. Of course, if a film purports to be a "true story," then accuracy is paramount. If it's simply a fantasy story, then there's plenty of creative license.

Let's say I am telling the story of a coach or athlete whose faith inspired him/her to great achievements. In filming the picture, I shouldn't be expected to have to run out and film footage of some crank who hates religion in sports. Let's say I am telling the story of a missionary's work in China. I am not obligated to run to a university to shoot a scene with someone who thinks taking Christianity to another culture is tantamount to genocide. Get the idea? Having said all of this, I tend to think there is a larger issue at the heart of this flap.

Through the years, there have been plenty of critics who snipe at 1950s television shows like "Leave It To Beaver," arguing that they portray a phony picture of family life that isn't the experience of the vast majority. Well, I hate to disabuse them of the notion, but the dysfunctional, perverted "families" portrayed in many films or sitcoms aren't the norm with most either. And the snipers miss the point anyway. What was being portrayed in classic shows such as "Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" was an ideal. Ideals are things for which most people long and strive to obtain, or be. Ideals are supposed to be a noble aspiration. Ideals aren't anathema, unless the said ideal is resurrecting the values of Kristallnacht or some other monstrosity. There are good ideals and evil ideals. Have we lost sight of the difference? Oh, sorry. That would require a value judgment, wouldn't it. Silly me.

Maybe some of these sourpusses long for screaming fights, drugged or drunk parents, rebellious, smart-aleck children, one suicide or rape a month, and a host of other flies in the ointment. If they've got a taste for fecal matter, that's their prerogative. Most people I know long for something better.

They say they want reality portrayed? Really? Whose reality are they portraying? If they must portray a reality, why do they always have to head for the cesspool for their material? There are other realities out there besides dysfunctionality. Even the best of families will have issues from time to time. But having occasional issues and crises doesn't mean all families are following the templates of the families shown in many "reality" shows today.

I often wonder if some of these people who carp incessantly about what they view as naive or "prudish entertainment" aren't really driven by resentment and jealousy. They had or currently live less than an idyllic life, so they want to portray having such a life as impossible or in the realm of fantasy. They view those of us who live in "flyover country" as myopic, but they fail to see through the 1/4-inch thick glasses they've got on the bridges of their own noses.

Think about it for a moment. If these people had their way, Frank Capra or other legendary directors would never have been able to film a private birthday party, much less some of their timeless classics. Too maudlin. Too unrealistic. Too "insert critical adjective" here. They would prefer "Rosemary's Baby" over "The Nativity Story." They would disdain stories such as that of William Wilberforce or Peter Marshall, but celebrate any film that salaciously told the story of a well known pastor or evangelist's moral downfall. They really shouldn't give themselves away so easily.

Despite my rather acid tone in this post, the fact that there ARE more positive-themed, Christian-themed movies out there has me encouraged. Let's just hope that the momentum is sustained.


crownring said...

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw FoxFaith was releasing a movie featuring Francine Rivers' "The Last Sin Eater". I do hope it's a faithful rendition of the book. It's an unusual story with plenty of drama.

BTW, I saw "One Night With The King" is on DVD now. I reckon the new norm is to put a Christian movie on the big screen for a short while and then quickly release it to the public on DVD.

That reminds me, I still haven't watched my DVD of Peretti's "The Visitation".

Phil Perkins said...

Interesting juxtaposition. The article on Anna Nicole Smith and this one. Excellent points on both.

Just once I'd like to see the sexual revolution done up in a documentary that was truthful, not a crockumentary as usual. In today's pop and academic cultures, the sexual revolution was better than the American War for Independence. Before life was awful. Now we're all happy, cuz we're FREEEEEE.

Most men in prison come from broken homes. Abortions kills millions because dad and mom wanted to use the sexual capacities for pleasure, without any thought of the responsibilities.

If these are not the end times, history will one day look back at the 1960's and 1970's as a terrible turning point into a dark age of personal irresponsibility leading to millions of murders, millions of cases of child abuse, and the loss of Western dominance in the world.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.