The recent events with Will & Grace, as well as the upcoming Oscars honoring Brokeback Mountain (a controversial film being honored for its artistic value and powerful message), and the impending release of The Da Vinci Code movie has made me wonder what the appropriate response to Hollywood should be from Christians.
There are many valid choices available to us as U.S. citizens, as Christians, and as offended people. As I noted in the comments posted on Jimmy Akin’s blog entry "The Shaming Has Begun", I feel that some of the options available (using The Da Vinci Code movie as an example) are:
- staying away in droves
- writing/blogging about it (and potentially giving it more free publicity)
- call a boycott of other Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, "Amelie", or Sony/Columbia Pictures movies
- make/support a documentary explaining the flaws of The Da Vinci Code
- write it off as another attempt by Hollywood to slam Christians
- pray for the souls of all those involved, and thereby "heap burning coals on their heads" (Proverbs 25:21-22; Romans 12:19-21)
- offer up the shame of this movie for the conversion of souls, for the strengthening of our own, and for the souls in Purgatory
(Please note that I left out "rioting in the streets", "lighting cars on fire", "using gunmen to take over production company office buildings", and "covering our faces while holding signs and shouting hate messages" – these are unacceptable for any offense.)
Each of these has their own strengths and merits, as well as weaknesses and flaws. I am exercising option 2 right now. 🙂 How effective this method is depends on several things, among them:
- the exposure of my blog (which I must admit is not very good – less than 500 hits so far, most of them from me updating and maintaining my page)
- the exposure of my comments on other sites (hopefully better exposure than my own site)
- and how well I write and present my opinions (I leave that to the eyes of the beholders)
I know option 2 was used so often in regard to the book version of The Da Vinci Code that there came into being a veritable cottage industry of books refuting it. It is just a matter of time before option 2 is combined with option 4 and a documentary comes out to refute the movie and book. (Let’s hope it is not perceived as a Christian version of "Fahrenheit 9/11" and therefore written off as the work of a lunatic fringe.)
Options 1 and 3 were used in the Britney/Will & Grace case. To be honest, I did not think that NBC would respond the way they did. I thought that they would not take the threat of a boycott very seriously from a group that is probably not a major part of their audience or target demographic to begin with. This is the chief weakness of this option – if people aren’t already watching, using, buying the product of the offender, why would a boycott of it make any difference. I think in the age of instant media, though, there is the sense (rightly or wrongly, you be the judge) that the public has a short attention span, and with the proper "mea culpa" (or "somebody we just fired’s culpa"), people will be back to watching, using, buying the product of the offender again – that is, until the next offense.
Option 5 was exercised for far too long by far too many people. Ignoring a problem which not only influences, but practically dictates, our popular culture is a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, Hollywood is starting to take notice (see the USA Today article "Evangelicals Miss the Big Picture") that they are not the only source of culture in America and the world. The exercise of a variant of option 4, and not option 5, is the primary reason why.
A few years ago, like Brokeback Mountain, there was another controversial film with artistic value and powerful message. The problem is that it was made outside of the Hollywood system, and (because its message did not fit in with the Hollywood culture) it did not get honored with any major Oscar nominations (it was nominated for cinematography, make-up, and music/original score). However, in spite of these struggles, The Passion of the Christ did win the awards that should matter most to Hollywood as a business: $370 million box office gross in the United States alone, $83 million of that in the opening weekend! (Brokeback Mountain, by comparison, has grossed $51 million in the U.S. over the past 2 months – it’s largest weekend gross was 3 weeks ago at $7.8 million.) These facts, combined with other examples of the variant of option 4 – make your own films that are better than their mediocre product – forces us to ask the question: what is the real business of Hollywood? If The Passion of the Christ was the 2nd biggest film of 2004 (only $3 million short of Spider-Man 2), The Chronicles of Narnia (written by C.S. Lewis – a Christian writer) was one of the biggest films of 2005, and all 3 Lord of the Rings movies (written by J.R.R. Tolkien – a Catholic writer) are in the top 20 grossing films of all time, why aren’t more good films with a Christian message/undertone being made? (This is as much an indictment of Christian filmmakers and actors as it is of Hollywood filmmakers and actors.)
This leaves options 6 and 7. No matter what other options are exercised (and I’m sure there are more than I have mentioned here), prayer and sacrifice must always be exercised, both as a reaction, as well as when determining what course of reaction to take. Our goal, as Christians, is not the salvation of the culture – our goal is the salvation of souls. The culture will follow the state of the people’s souls. Let us pray and sacrifice for our souls and the souls of those that make popular culture.
Frederick Delius said, "Music is an outburst of the soul." May more of our culture’s outbursts be hymns, and less of them be dirges and noise.