Monday, November 8, 2010

The problem with Christian media

Sully links to a great article about why Christian-themed media is so awful. It's worth a read in full. As a Christian who avoids that stuff like the plague unless the purpose is to mock it (Fireproof: A laugh and a half for believers and heathens alike. It really is!), I think there need to be a few distinctions made here. I don't have anything against people who just don't care to watch movies with profanity, sex or violence in them. Personal preferences are what they are, and since there are plenty of movies that I won't watch due to my understanding of their content--the synopsis of the film Antichrist intrigued me, but after reading about the genital mutilation I skipped it--and if I were to say that people should watch a bunch of stuff that is just unpleasant to them, I'd pretty much be a hypocrite.

I don't really think this is the problem, though. I remember that my parents for a time received the Focus on the Family critical mag, which was titled "Plugged In", which is a great ironic title. I always found it to be a pretty good gauge of the evangelical/fundamentalist attitude toward art and culture because it was incapable of understanding several things. It was incapable of understanding that portraying something is not the same thing as endorsing it. I suppose this is an arguable point, and maybe in some specifics that is true (Truffaut's argument about the impossibility of making an anti-war film applies). But we're talking about a magazine that would do things like pan both Half-Baked and Requiem for a Dream because they were both about drug culture. Which is true--they are both about drug culture. But other than that, they are essentially opposite films, in terms of tone, approach, and their fundamental attitudes toward drug culture (and the drugs they portray, it should be noted). I get that critics miss the point sometimes, but there is a real disservice done here. I mean, both Philip Roth and Eyes Wide Shut are about sex, but Roth's books are all about how having sex is great, a part of vitality, and not really anything that should be suppressed, while Eyes Wide Shut tries to show a few reasons why sexual repression is necessary on some level, and how we couldn't function without it. Roth's work and Kubrick's film have flaws--I'd say Eyes is a severely flawed film that has some serious lapses in direction that go to show that Kubrick wasn't at full power near the end--but you almost have to be willfully obfuscating not to recognize the differences between different visions like that.

What this reflects is, as the author argues, basically an inability to think about art in any manner other than at face value. It's part and parcel of a movement in Christianity to reduce literally every aspect of the Christian experience to feelings (and, particularly, upbeat feelings), with learning being a tertiary (or even nonexistent) influence. It's unbalanced, obviously, and it's been pretty damaging to Christianity over the past decade on a number of levels--note the soaring number of people who don't claim a particular faith, for example. I can't imagine Kirk Cameron's performance in Fireproof, inspires anyone to take Christianity more seriously. Willem Defoe in The Last Temptation of Christ? Admittedly not a fully canonical Christian film, but who knows?

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.