Sunday, August 29, 2010

Is Hollywood Really Anti-Christian? (Part One)

An argument has long existed that Hollywood is anti-Christian.

Many of the portrayals of Christians in Hollywood films are far less than flattering. Meanwhile, a perception exists that films that present Christianity in a positive light tend to get a bad rap from so-called Hollywood elites (unless there is some kind of controversy involved).

To Save a Life is such a movie, and at least one of the actors cast in the film seem to think the film has gotten a bad rap.

To Save a Life opens with a funeral. Jake Taylor (Randy Wayne) is mourning the loss of a friend whom he turned away from in High School. His social circle is a simple one: his girlfriend Amy (Deja Kreutzberg), his best friend Doug Moore (Steven Crowder), and -- because Jake is the star of the school basketball team -- everyone else in the school.

Jake is naturally troubled, considering that Roger (Robert Bailey Jr) shot himself right in front of him.

He's eventually pulled into the orbit of Chris Vaughn (Joshua Weigel), a local pastor, and decides to change his life, even over the objections of his friends.

Criticisms of the film are apparently disquieting at least some of the film's cast months later.

Moore isn't a particularly appealing character, and it would be hard to pretend that other actors haven't played such characters better. But a January, 2010 review of the film in the New York Times seemed to offend Crowder enough to write a column on it for Fox News -- eight months later.

In the column, Crowder treats the review as symptomatic of anti-Christian hostility:
"The Hollywood elitists hated it. Surprisingly in most of the nasty reviews, the arrogant critics praised the film for its high-production quality and more than capable cast. What they had a problem with…was its Christian message."
Depending on the eye one has for such details, there may very well be enough in the review to justify Crowder's response to it -- although one may also argue that an actor taking the time to single out and respond to a bad review is rather unbecoming.

The review does suggest that the film has an agenda, but doesn't go so far as to state what the author -- Anddy Webster -- thinks that agenda is. He accuses the film of exploiting school shootings in order to advance that agenda; although the shooting portrayed in the film is more of a "Jeremy"-style suicide than a Columbine-style mass murder.

To Crowder, these kinds of reactions to the film isn't stemmed in the comparative merits of the film -- or whether the critic liked it. For Crowder, the response to the film is stemmed in anti-Christian hostility rooted in liberalism:
"There’s really only one answer. The movie’s message of salvation is decidedly Christian. In the film, the main character, Jake, turns his life around through his relationship with God. Not only God, but the worst kind of God as Tinseltown would see it… the evil, Judeo-Christian God. – Cue the dramatic chipmunk.

You see, See, Jesus to liberals is like the squat-rack to metrosexual gymrats; they avoid it like the plague. They hate it, because it’s a lot of work. Whether you see Jesus as nothing more than a mythical figure or not, there’s no doubt that living your life in a Christ-like manner is a lot harder than the hedonistic lifestyle reflected in Hollywood.
Certainly, this conflicts with at least one particular genre of film: the stoner film, in which characters who would (for lack of a more appropriate term) be considered losers find ways out of their problems without ever changing the lifestyle habits that have led their lives to the sorry state they're in.

Changing a lifestyle is hard. Some film genres have given their characters the option of taking the easy way out. In the end, the characters haven't improved their lot at all, yet have solved their problem of the day. Then again, these films don't tend to do very well with the critics either.

Vaughn challenges Jake to explore his spiritual side without sacrificing his sense of self. However, it becomes clear to Jake that he has to make soem changes in his lifestyle.

Jake eventually has to confront Christian philistinism not only in those in the church, but also in himself.

Everyone is familiar with the Christian philistine: a selfish, self-righteous, judgemental and hypocritical individual who considers thsemelves to be "saved", and has nothing but contempt for those who are not.

Hollywood films are full of them.

To Save a Life seems to acknowledge the existence of such Christians. Moreover, it actually confronts that kind of individual, and challenges them to be more the way they believe they want to be.

There's a reason why the judgemental, hypocritical and holier-than-thou Christian is so popular in many Hollywood films -- such as the upcoming Easy A. It's because such Christians exist. They should by no means be taken to represent the whole of Christianity, but they very much do exist.

Critics whose personal impressions of Christianity are married to this preconception will find To Save a Life particularly challenging.

Those most decidated to maintaining their preconceptions typically don't enjoy challenges.

Many Christians themselves may find it even more challenging. They may enjoy the challenge even less.

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